Poster Paper: Is Need Enough? Allocating Intergovernmental Resources to Local Homelessness Agencies

Friday, November 4, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

David Lee, Indiana University

In the study of collaborative management, recent research findings have focused on the important roles of management practices in order to facilitate the policy and/or program outcomes. Although past research has made significant and meaningful contributions, relatively little is known empirically about the importance of intergovernmental resources on program outcomes in the midst of the complexity that is American federalism. The availability of financial resources can be a central reason to form and maintain intergovernmental, multi-sectoral relationships. However, the question for an analysis of any intergovernmental program is why one recipient is flush with resources while another is not. Is it based on need, as the design of intergovernmental programs are ostensibly based? Is it managerial capacity or something else? Bottom line, what are the major determinants of federal grants on local programs?

This study investigates the determinants of funding in an intergovernmental program area, that of homelessness. Two major research questions are answered:


  • What are the determinants of financial awards in the area of intergovernmental homelessness programs?

  • Do financial awards go to the local homelessness agencies based on need, capacity, or something else?

To answer these questions, we study a local homelessness housing program, called Continuum of Care (hereafter, CoC). The CoC program is designated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to manage local community-based agencies in dealing with homelessness. The CoC program is a valid case to study the determinants of financial resources for the following reasons: 1) the CoCs receive financial awards from the federal government and 2) they provide funding for efforts to manage homelessness issues at the local level. The CoCs provide several projects from housing project to information management project with governments and nongovernmental organizations.

We hypothesize that the financial resources from the federal government in the CoC program will go to the agencies with high need, as specified in the description of the funding mechanism. However, previous research has found that financial resources (and other policy making resources) that flow from the federal or state government to local government or program are determined in large part by local administrative capacity and intergovernmental political preferences. These findings suggest that the federal government allocates funding to local actors who can achieve high performance, and not necessarily based on need.

We investigate this issue using panel data drawn from multiple sources including the CoC Census dataset and U.S. Census dataset. Our unit of analysis is a county-level. In the dataset, we collected several indicators that possibly affect the determinants of federal financial resources on local homelessness programs. Such indicators capture the problem severity, program composition, and past performance of local homelessness programs. Additional data include measure of socioeconomic and political characteristics of county-level. Examining the determinants of the federal government’s decision to provide financial resources to local homelessness service providers will contribute to the burgeoning literature on government performance, but from the perspective of an intergovernmental program.