Masters Thesis Spotlight: Program Evaluation of the CESC Diversion Program

Leon County is increasing its focus on homelessness as the number of residents experiencing housing insecurity rises. The Kearney Center is an organization in the Big Bend region that provides individuals with access to resources and emergency shelters. The center operates under the direction of the nonprofit Connecting Everyone with Second Chances (CESC), which, in August 2020, started the CESC Diversion Program. This remote program focuses on the policy of diversion, where organizations assist individuals in finding stable housing options. Through financial assistance, access to resources, and advocacy, individuals have safe and stable alternatives to emergency shelters. This thesis seeks to identify the effectiveness of the CESC Diversion Program, analyze other factors that impact stable housing opportunities for individuals, and ultimately determine if the program is cost-effective and efficient enough to continue.

            The author conducts a survey, an ordered logistic regression test, and a cost-benefit analysis. 58 individuals who received assistance from the CESC Diversion Program participated in the phone survey and evaluated their experiences. Furthermore, the ordered logistic regression test analyzes factors that influence how long individuals remain in stable housing after receiving diversion services. Based on these test results and the cost-benefit analysis, the author provides recommendations for the program.

            These tests revealed that the CESC Diversion Program is effective. Only 3.45% of individuals did not have stable housing one month after receiving diversion services, and 62.07% of individuals were still housed at the time of the survey. Most individuals who received diversion services were stably housed for 1-2 months or 5-6 months. 81.03% of individuals attributed their housing stability to the CESC Diversion Program. Furthermore, rent assistance (the most likely diversion service individuals received) and short-term hotel assistance increased the likelihood of individuals retaining stable housing. Individuals that identify as Hispanic/Latinx and individuals with a reported disability were more likely to keep stable housing. Another factor that influenced the duration of stable housing was the source of income; individuals that received Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance were less likely to have continued stable housing.

            The program was also deemed cost-effective; however, not in all instances. The cost-analysis looked at the costs of housing an individual in congregate emergency shelters (shelters with communal spaces) and non-congregate shelters (shelters with more privacy) for 56 days. These costs were compared with the price of providing diversion services that would stably house an individual for 56 days. Diversion services were 12.13% more costly than providing access to a congregate shelter; however, diversion services were 46.09% less costly than providing access to a non-congregate shelter. Thus, the cost-benefit analysis revealed that the CESC Diversion Program was only cost-effective as an alternative to non-congregate shelters.

            Since the program is effective and cost-effective compared to non-congregate shelters, the author recommends that the CESC Diversion Program continue. The study further supports the collection of more contact information from individuals who receive program assistance to improve follow-up. The author recommends implementing post-diversion services (such as counseling) on a scheduled basis after receiving resources from the program. Ultimately, since this program is fairly new, more research is required to understand the effectiveness of the CESC Diversion Program fully. 

Kayla Towle is a Master’s level candidate at the Reubin O’D Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University. This post is a summary of Kayla’s thesis, written by COSSPP Blog Intern Jacqueline Rao. Kayla’s thesis was approved by their committee and will soon be available for public consumption. You can learn more about Kayla here.

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