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Evaluating California’s Project Roomkey


  • California’s Project Roomkey helped shelter 42,000 people experiencing homelessness during COVID—can it be replicated?
  • Abt is part of a team that’s defining the scope of an evaluation.
  • Abt will perform the evaluation, highlighting lessons learned and best practices to aid future implementations.
The Challenge

Conducted by the California Department of Social Services (DSS), the Project Roomkey (PRK) Program is a statewide effort to protect people experiencing homelessness by giving them an alternative to staying on the street or in congregate shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, more than 42,000 participants receive temporary shelter in motels and hotels. Abt is partnering with the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) and the Conrad N. Hilton (Hilton) Foundation to conduct an evaluation to help identify and understand both the successes and challenges of PRK, including the experiences and outcomes of the program's clients, and the ways in which the state's housing and healthcare systems collaborated. Understanding this approach can help determine if it could be replicated during future health or environmental emergencies, or even adopted as a new way of helping people transition to permanent housing.

The Approach

The Abt evaluation team will work with CHCF, Hilton, DSS, and an advisory committee to sharpen the evaluation focus, review preliminary thoughts on the evaluation design, and determine the relative emphasis across topical areas and outcomes to be measured. Once that process has concluded, Abt will design and implement the finalized framework for the study.

The Results

A final report and case studies–covering program implementation, lessons learned, participants experiences, system collaboration, and housing and health outcomes of participants–will be delivered at the end of the project. The PRK Program Evaluation ultimately will elevate key findings and lessons learned for housing, healthcare, and homeless service systems, to help others implement this approach.