I'm Not a Detective - So Why Worry About Evidence?
How can evidence-based practice help you in your everyday work with people who are homeless? Check out this Q & A with Dr. Ellen Bassuk of the National Center on Family Homelessness and the Institute on Homelessness and Trauma.
Interview with Ellen Bassuk, M.D., Founder and President, National
Center on Family Homelessness, and Managing Director, Institute on
Homelessness and Trauma.
Q: What is the role of evidence-based practices (EBPs) in the homelessness field?
EBPs help us identify approaches that achieve the best results, like
stability in permanent housing, increased income, and improved physical
and mental health. EBPs have outcome data to show that the practice
works and produces positive results. Outcomes may be measured by less
frequent hospitalization or decreased use of medications, fewer days in
shelters, and fewer visits to emergency rooms. The problem in the
homelessness field is that we think many practices have good outcomes,
but we have little data to support our hunch. In many cases, we don’t
know from research what works, for whom, and in what settings.
Q: What are some examples of EBPs in homeless services?
Critical Time Intervention is one example. It is an intervention that
helps people transition from homelessness into housing, and mobilize
natural supports and whatever services they might need to help them
stabilize. Another is Assertive Community Treatment (ACT)—a
multi-disciplinary team-based approach to providing support for people
with mental health problems. A third is Pathways to Housing, a housing
first intervention, which has recently been accepted as an EBP by
NREPP, SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and
Q: Describe the benefits of using EBPs.
Benefits for consumers are that EBPs are more likely to achieve
positive outcomes such as improved housing stability, and mental and
physical well-being. For providers, descriptions of EBPs (like the ones
at NREPP) provide information about key ingredients, implementation and
Q: What are the challenges associated with choosing and implementing EBPs in the real world of homeless services?
Many of the practices that are considered evidence-based are
psychotherapeutic in nature and are offered within traditional,
clinical environments. In homeless services, interventions happen in
non-traditional settings—shelters, mobile vans, the streets. With
limited outcomes-based evidence, it can be difficult to know exactly
what practices work for whom.
Q: What advice would you give service providers and program managers?
Since EBPs are beneficial for consumers and providers, we have to
figure out how to make the body of evidence more robust. One thing that
providers and administrators can do is to participate in data
collection that will add to the body of evidence and help bridge the
gap between research and practice.
Type of Resource:
Q & A