Case Study

Community Shelter Board, Evaluation of Emergency Shelters

The Context

Due in large part to the effects of the “Great Recession,” Central Ohio is experiencing unprecedented demand for emergency shelter. From 2010 to 2012, the number of families needing emergency shelter increased by 52%. To help meet and manage this need, the Community Shelter Board and its key strategic partners (Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Board of Franklin County and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority) piloted a number of innovative programs and system changes designed to help more vulnerable people access the shelter and services they need, more quickly.

The Critical Question

To what extent were these pilot programs successful?

Our Solution

It was critically important that we obtain objective, accurate data regarding whether or not these programs and efforts were yielding the desired effects. Over the course of two and a half years, our research team planned and conducted a comprehensive evaluation, comparing the experiences of homeless adults and families involved in the pilot programs to homeless adults and families who did not participate in these pilot programs.


We were able to determine that the adults served by these pilot programs accessed supportive housing more quickly than matched comparison groups, and that they took advantage of the outpatient mental health and other services available to them once they entered housing. We also identified a number of opportunities to improve program operations.


The Community Shelter Board and its key strategic partners are now implementing the procedures tested within these pilot programs throughout Franklin County’s supportive housing system.