Program Evaluation for the Homelessness Sector

Data Collection

This lesson looks at how to collect the data to address your evaluation questions.

How will you collect the data that is needed to address your evaluation questions?

There are two main sources of data – one them you probably already have – administrative records. You can gather data from your existing data collection system. Or, if there is new information you want to collect, you could build it in so it doesn’t cause additional work for program staff. 

The second source of data is service users and program staff. You could conduct surveys, interviews or focus groups with program staff and service users. 

The table below shows you options for different types of evaluation questions.

Evaluation Question Method Data Source
(1) Is my program or service being implemented as planned? Literature review
Key informant interviews
Focus groups
  • Peer-reviewed and grey literature
  • Program managers
  • Program staff
(2) What were the facilitators and barriers the program or service experienced? Key informant interviews
Focus groups
Client interviews
  • Program managers
  • Program staff
  • Program clients
(3) What are the housing outcomes of clients in the program or service? Administrative data
Surveys & Focus groups
  • Agency records
  • Program clients

Surveys, focus groups, and interviews

Surveys allow for a greater number of people to be addressed. The survey can include both close-ended and open-ended questions.

  1. Questions can include satisfaction with current service offerings, ratings of the importance of services that are/to be made available, and general thoughts on the needs of the community (example of needs assessment survey in the hub?)
  2. Who should be surveyed? Your target population.

Focus groups and interviews allow for greater detail to be obtained on the needs of the community. Focus groups can answer questions like:

  1. What services currently exist?
  2. Who is providing the service?
  3. Who is accessing the service?
  4. What are the needs of the target population?
  5. How can we address those needs?

Focus groups video

Who should you interview? Consider people in your target population, service providers, and other experts in the topic area.

Strategies for in-depth interviews:

  • Use open-ended, guided questions (4-6) so people can express their views and opinions.
  • Ask what people think. What is their experience? Start with something general How has the program helped you? What difference has it made in your life? 
  • Use prompts and guiding questions. 
  • Try to develop rapport without leading the person to answer a specific way.

In-depth interviews video

Who should do interviews?

You can choose to have program staff conduct the interviews or use external evaluators or even researchers. If participants may feel their answers will jeopardize their placement in the program, they may be reluctant to share negative experiences – so consider this when choosing program staff.