Inaccurate data halts homeless service provider audit

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) An audit on the success of Utah’s homeless providers cannot be done because a large amount of information was either wrong or missing. 

Lawmakers will have to wait to learn if $100 million spent last year on homeless services actually made a difference, according to an audit released Monday

State auditors admit they found numerous problems with data provided by homeless service providers. The information was so unreliable, Legislative Auditor General Kade Minchey said it cannot be used to accurately monitor program outcomes.

“That is disappointing. We thought we’d be further along at this point and focusing on programs that were really succeeding,” he said. 

What’s more, poor historic data resulted in Utah falsely reporting a 91 percent decrease in chronic homelessness between 2005 and 2015. The incorrect accomplishment earned national attention. One cause for the large reduction in chronic homelessness is the state stopped counting people in transitional housing in 2010. 

“We were a little disappointed to see that the data quality and some of our providers are putting into the homeless providers’ information system is wrong,” Jonathan Hardy said, division director of the Housing and Community Division of the Department of Workforce Services. “That is definitely an area we want to shore up.”

Auditors suggested better oversight and planning are needed to improve Utah’s response to homelessness. 

“Funding for homeless services come from so many directions, it’s important to get everybody working off the same game plan and combine resources to make it work,” Minchey said. 

“We have a lot of measures in place, but this gives us the direction to go and put those benchmarks in place,” Hardy said.

Operation Rio Grande’s measurements of success were touted as an example to the state on ways that plans and goals can be monitored. 

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