Homelessness data provides insight into a hidden problem

Mary * was a middle school teacher in Cary, NC, with more than 20 years of classroom experience. After tragically experiencing domestic violence in her home, Mary went into a bitter divorce that left her and her two sons homeless.

Many people stereotype homeless as unemployed, addicts or criminals. Mary was none of these things. And the truth is, many families stumble upon bad luck, including illness, divorce, job loss, or domestic violence, and find themselves without a home.

Overwhelmed and frightened, Mary turned to one of her school counselors for help. The counselor suggested that she contact The Carying Place to find support and guidance to help regain her self-confidence and get her family into the home they deserved.

Carying Place (TCP) is an organization that has supported working homeless families like Mary’s for 27 years. More than 400 families have completed TCP’s 16-week program that offers short-term training in transitional housing and life skills to homeless families. By empowering and equipping families for self-sufficiency, TCP helps break the cycle of poverty and gives families a chance to achieve self-sufficiency.

Uncovering the struggles of the “hidden homeless” that is right in front of us helps us understand the full picture of homelessness in our society so that organizations like TCP can better serve these individuals. Thanks to a partnership with SAS, TCP has a new way of measuring indicators of participants’ success to give these families the help they deserve.

Celebrating Mary’s success

After being accepted into the program, Mary and her family were placed in a costly housing unit by TCP. A volunteer support team provided Mary with weekly guidance in managing personal finances, setting achievable goals, searching for permanent affordable housing, and maintaining employment. After setting clear goals for where she wanted to be, Mary worked diligently for four months, supervised and supervised by her volunteer team and former candidates for the program, to save money, learn new key competencies, and become self-sufficient.

Not only did Mary successfully complete the program and move to a place where it was completed, but today she acts as a mentor, speaking at workshops and helping to inspire the “hidden homeless” who have gone through experiences similar to hers.

Mary recently purchased her own home, thanks in part to the money she saved and the resources she received throughout the program. She now uses her experience to help others and hosts presentations to current TCP families about the process she followed to reach this milestone.

“It’s the ability that The Carying Place gives families. We do not do the work. We give them the structure to do the work. And they do. This can be the result, ”said Leslie Covington, CEO of TCP. “The ability for her to be so successful inspires other families to strive for it.”

Answer questions with data

In order to better serve families like Mary, TCP knew that a stronger strategy was needed to collect and analyze its 27-year-old data. Like many nonprofits, TCP wanted data to validate the program’s success, but it did not have the systems or processes in place for detailed data analysis or the budget to hire an external team to perform the work.

TCP had questions and hoped that the answers could be hidden in its data:

  • What are the common characteristics of those studying in the program?
  • Would the program be more successful if it were a few months longer?
  • What other partners should we introduce to help families?

With all these questions, piles of handwritten data and inconsistent Excel spreadsheets, Carolyn Hendricks, Senior IT Manager at SAS and a member of TCP’s Board of Directors, suggested that TCP let SAS lend a hand.

“Our priority is to help families through the most difficult seasons of life, and much of that work supports the homeless who are hidden in common view,” Covington said. “That’s what we do best. SAS was able to take the data right in front of us and uncover hidden insights that we could not see before. That’s what they do best. It was honestly the perfect combination. “