The California Statewide Survey of People Experiencing Homelessness (CASPEH), conducted by the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI) with financial support from UCSF BHHI, Blue Shield Foundation of California, and the California Health Care Foundation, aims to inform policies, programs, and perspectives in order to prevent and end adult homelessness in California. The CASPEH will use survey data and in-depth interviews to achieve five aims:
To understand the characteristics of adults experiencing homelessness in California
To characterize the immediate precipitants of homelessness
To characterize people’s experiences while homeless
To understand the barriers to exiting homelessness and obtaining housing
To understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on homelessness.
Inspired by a request from Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, the CSSPEH will provide data to complement, but not replicate, data from the Point-in-Time count, Homeless Management Information System, and Homeless Data Integration System.
We launched our survey in the fall of 2021 and anticipate that we will conclude data collection in December of 2022.
We have chosen 8 counties (and expanded one to a two-county cluster) that will allow us to draw statewide estimates. We chose counties to represent California’s diversity: urban and rural, Northern and Southern, Coastal and Inland. We are using venue- and respondent-driven sampling approaches to ensure our sample represents all homeless adults in each area.
We plan to conduct structured interviews with approximately 350 and 600 participants in each county to draw reliable estimates. All adults experiencing homelessness, whether as single adults or in families, are eligible. We are conducting interviews in English, Spanish, and other threshold languages (depending on the county). To further our understanding of the population, we are also conducting a series of qualitative interviews.
We have convened three community advisory boards (CABs) to provide input into all aspects of the study. The CABs include: (1) people with lived experience of homelessness from throughout the state; (2) local, state, and national representatives of homeless system practitioners and policymakers; and (3) a learning community of representatives from the 8 participating counties. These three CABs are offering ongoing guidance on data collection tools; sampling; data interpretation; and dissemination of the study findings.
To design and conduct each study, UCSF BHHI faculty and staff are working alongside leaders and community members in each county to design data collection efforts to insure we contact even the most hard-to-reach populations.
The questionnaire asks about precipitants of homelessness; alcohol, drug, and mental health issues; the personal impact of COVID-19; current income and benefits; current and prior intimate partner violence exposure; housing and health service utilization; and respondents’ perceptions of interventions that would help them achieve stable housing. Based on their responses to the questionnaire, we will invite certain participants to complete a qualitative interview to describe their experiences and perspectives in greater depth.
The findings will provide a statewide picture of homelessness, increase our current knowledge, and fill existing knowledge gaps about unsheltered populations and homelessness, examine the effects of COVID-19 on homelessness, and inform local and state policy decisions. BHHI will disseminate these findings through presentations, reports, editorials, and academic journal articles. While we will not publicly identify county-level data, we will provide each county with data from their own county, to inform internal planning and policies.
Margot Kushel, MD
Director, UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative and Principal Investigator
Kara Young Ponder, PhD
Director of Community Engagement & Racial Justice, UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative
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