Evaluation Spotlight

The Alex in Calgary is a community health centre that has two Housing First programs. One is based on the Pathways to Housing model and utilizes ACT teams, while the other is termed “Home Base” and utilizes ICM teams. The Pathways program was initiated in 2007, and the Home Base program was initiated in 2009. The Alex developed an internal evaluation system to ensure that, “…at the end of the day we…know we are doing our job.”

We spoke with a senior program leader who talked about the importance of an evaluation process for tracking program success and ensuring continued learning and adaptation of the program to implementation challenges. The impetus to begin internal evaluation came from not having a clear picture of the characteristics of program participants and their related challenges. This presented an important opportunity for program improvement, learning, and documenting success.

Initially, it was a challenge to sell clinical staff on the importance of evaluation and actually getting clinicians to complete evaluation assessments of program participants. A lesson learned from this process is that it is important to involve clinicians early on and present the possibilities for program improvement so that clinical staff understands the process. Another challenge faced by internal evaluators was the creation of data management tools to keep track of evaluation data. The team has developed a series of excel spreadsheets to this end. An important component of this data tool is that when baseline data are collected on new participants, the tool populates future data collection points and notifies both team leads and members by email about when the next assessments should be completed.