DENTON (UNT), Texas — A researcher in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service is studying how the continuum of care for homeless people, which includes the social, medical, public health and education sectors, has changed during COVID-19.
Hee Soun Jang, an associate professor and graduate coordinator for the Department of Public Administration, and Jesus Valero, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, have been researching services for homeless people that are run at a local level and often involve multiple agencies known as Continuum of Care (CoC).
“Continuum of Care is a premise that is unique to improving a fragmented service system for homelessness,” Jang said. “There are innovative and interesting examples of individual agencies providing successful interventions for homeless populations. But, because agencies do not always coordinate services and information with one another, it is difficult to capture comprehensive knowledge of homeless populations.”
In their current research, funded by a grant from Systems for Action, a national research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Jang and Valero are specifically looking at how Continuum of Care networks were affected by COVID-19. They will use previous national studies from 2018 conducted by IBM and RWJF to compare pre-COVID-19 levels of service with current offerings.
The two-year project will start with case studies in 20 U.S. cities that have both high levels of homelessness and high levels per capita of COVID-19 cases. The second year will consist of a national survey developed from the case studies. Jang and Valero will integrate factors such as racial equity into their research.
“The community has to develop its coordinated approach and aligned mechanism for a fuller, holistic, comprehensive service system that can help these homeless communities,” Jang said. “The people that experience homelessness are in very different stages of their lives. There is no single approach that can fix the problem.”
Findings will be used to understand the effects of the pandemic on CoC homeless service networks and the effectiveness of the networks in achieving health equity during COVID-19.
“We hope that the results of this study will help improve the coordination of cross sector actors in addressing the multidimensional needs of homeless individuals particularly during this public health pandemic,” Valero said.
SYSTEMS FOR ACTION
Systems for Action is a national research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that aims to discover and apply new evidence about ways of aligning delivery and financing systems across the medical, public health, and social services sectors that support a Culture of Health.