In 2019, ATC established a vision for our future which included becoming a more data-informed organization.
When we set out to accomplish this goal, we were determined not to fall into the trap that too many nonprofits fall into. We didn’t want to rely on traditional metrics that would not be a good fit for our program model which consists of removing barriers, providing unconditional support, and offering long-term relationships. Nor did we want to define success in a way that neglects the needs of our clients, many of whom are living with severe and persistent mental illness, attempting to break the cycle of poverty, and facing countless barriers on their paths to greater happiness and stability. We knew that the only way forward was to “measure what matters”.*
Our first step on this journey was to design and complete a client study in 2021. In collaboration with a pro bono partner, Analysis Group (AG),—big shout out to Analysis Group for their incredible partnership!—ATC developed and administered a 14 question survey with 58 clients. The purpose of the study was to better understand our clients, their needs, what they most value about ATC’s services, how they would like to see ATC grow or improve, and gaps in the homelessness response system. ATC’s ultimate goal is to test our assumptions about our impact and identify ways to better support our clients.
The study yielded several key findings:
- Over half of ATC’s clients reported not accessing services outside of ATC. For some of our city’s most under-resourced and vulnerable young people, the fact that they were not connecting with additional resources that may improve and enrich their lives was noteworthy.
- Many clients reported a lack of trust in other providers as being the reason why they aren’t accessing services outside of ATC.
- Many also shared that because of ATC’s holistic approach, they didn’t need additional services elsewhere
- In a previous survey we conducted with clients, we found that:
- 95% of clients report that ATC always or often has services that meet their needs
- 100% of clients always or often feel they are treated with respect by ATC staff members
- Another significant finding was that mental health and wellness was one of the top reasons why clients access At The Crossroads.
- This tells us that in a landscape with many housing providers and programs (often with long waitlists and no available resources while someone waits for support), ATC fills a very important need.
- We try to make the challenging process of accessing supportive services easier, to be advocates for our clients, and to provide caring, emotional support to people while they wait for resources.
- The counseling support we provide is rooted in care, consistency, and compassion.
This year, ATC will continue to partner with Analysis Group on the second wave of data collection in which we will design and begin administering our first outcome study. We’re currently establishing key metrics that will help us better understand the impact of our client-directed, unconditional, and long-term model of support. We’re in the design phase and we are expecting to begin implementation this summer.
In addition to previous data that shows ATC helps clients with goal attainment, our hypothesis is that our involvement also increases self-efficacy, social connectedness, and hopefulness. These outcomes are all predictors of greater stability and happiness, our ultimate goal for our clients.
ATC looks forward to updating our community soon about our new study. For our individual and foundation donors who have supported our program evaluation efforts, thank you! If you are interested in hearing more about our program evaluation efforts, please contact Charles Lerner, Executive Director at [email protected].
(*Okay, we should acknowledge that we were also a bit resistant to collecting data. We may have let common barriers—some might say excuses—get in the way of making progress. Yes, program evaluation can distract organizations from doing “the work”. Yes, it is an investment and takes time and money. However, if done well, that investment pays off in the future and helps organizations develop sustainable and high-impact programs.)