HUD System Performance Measures:
Returns to Homelessness

Mary Ann Priester

Senior Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County Community Support Services

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires Continuums of Care (CoCs) to assess their collective efforts in addressing homelessness. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has created seven System Performance Measures for this purpose. Annually, Charlotte-Mecklenburg is required to report its performance on six of these measures to HUD. These measures are not only important for securing CoC funding but also serve as tools for local monitoring and system improvement. This is the second post in a series of blogs that will examine Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s performance on these measures and the implications for the local community.

This blog provides an overview of and presents data on System Performance Measure Two: Returns to Homelessness Within 24 Months.


The HUD System Performance Measures offer a comprehensive assessment of community efforts to prevent and end homelessness. The measures go beyond just tracking the reduction in homelessness numbers and also gauge the effectiveness of the coordinated system in ensuring homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring. These measures include:

  1. Length of Time Persons Remain Homeless
  2. Returns to Homelessness Within 24 Months
  3. Number of Homeless Persons
  4. Employment and Income Growth for CoC Funded Projects
  5. Number of People Who Become Homeless for the First Time
  6. Prevention and Housing Placement for Persons Defined by Category 3
  7. Successful Placement in or Retention of Permanent Housing

This blog series will provide a deep dive into each measure, explain the desired outcomes, what is being measured, and who is included. A previous blog focused on the first measure: Length of Time Homeless. This blog will focus on the second measure: Returns to Homelessness Within 24 Months.


Measure 2: Returns to Homelessness Within 24 months examines the extent to which people who exit homelessness to permanent housing destinations return to homelessness within 6, 12, and 24 Months. This measure tracks clients who transitioned from street outreach (SO), emergency shelter (ES), transitional housing (TH), safe haven (SH), or a permanent housing program (PH) to permanent housing within the two-year period leading up to the current fiscal year. For example, for the most recent reporting year (FY 22), this metric looks back at people who exited to permanent housing destinations in FY 20. Permanent destinations include but are not limited to long-term care facility or nursing home, permanent housing programs including rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing, housing that is owned and/or rented with or without a subsidy, and staying or living with friends or family when it is expected to be of permanent tenure . A complete list of permanent destinations can be found here: Housing Destinations.

Among these clients, the measure assesses how many people experienced a return to homelessness, as documented in the HMIS, within up to two years after their initial exit. Specifically, the measure provides data on the number of people who return to homelessness in less than six months, between 6 – 12 months, 13 – 24 months, and the total number of people who returned to homelessness in two years.

Measure two provides us with insights into the effectiveness and sustainability of interventions within the homeless services system. These data can be further analyzed with an equity focus to gain understanding of the causes of returns to homelessness to inform system improvement, intervention development or enhancement, and how to best target resources to prevent returns to homelessness. The desired outcome for this measure is a reduction in the percentage of people who return to homelessness. A high percentage of returns to homelessness suggests that a person may have needed more support prior to exit, may have needed additional support post-exit, or may have been unsure who or where to reach out to in the event they were experiencing challenges keeping their housing. A low percentage of returns would indicate that the interventions employed both within program and post-program exit are sufficient to ensure housing stability for those who exit the homeless services system to permanent housing.

For federal fiscal year, FY 22 (October 1, 2021-September 30, 2022) in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, 20% of the people who exited the homeless services system from any program type to a permanent destination in FY 20 (October 1, 2019-September 30, 2020) returned to homelessness. This is a 5% decrease from FY 21.

When examining returns by program type, compared to FY 21, in FY 22 there were fewer returns from exits to permanent housing from emergency shelter (27% vs. 33%) but those who exited emergency shelter accounted for the highest percentage of returns out of all program types. This suggests additional supports may be needed for people exiting emergency shelter to permanent housing. There was also a reduction in the number of people who exited permanent housing to a permanent destination (10% vs. 16%). This reduction may be in part due to the implementation of the permanent supportive housing transfer policy which aims to prevent people from exiting permanent supportive housing to a homeless destination.

There were slight increases in the percentage of returns from exits to permanent housing from street outreach programs (25% vs. 23%) and transitional housing programs (4% vs. 3%). For street outreach and emergency shelter, the majority of returns to homelessness occur within less than 6 months of program exit while the majority of returns from transitional housing and permanent housing occur between 13-24 months post housing. These data suggest that program specific post-exit supportive services, follow up, and financial assistance at specific time frames may be useful to ensure people served by these program types maintain housing post program exit.

Decreasing the percentage of people who return to homelessness not only requires supporting individuals in maximizing income and connecting with non-cash resources for which they may be eligible for but also requires support in linkage to legal, transportation, health and mental health, financial literacy, and social and familial support networks. While these services can be provided within program and post-program exit, it is also important to have an adequate and accessible prevention system that provides services via community-wide and structural interventions such as ensuring an adequate supply of affordable housing or providing a basic universal income; supports individuals at imminent risk of losing their housing via interventions such as emergency financial assistance or family or landlord mediation; and housing stability case management services that assist with cross-system navigation, referrals, and the development of natural supports and social capital.


Analyzing system level data is essential to ensure the local coordinated system of care for individuals experiencing homelessness and housing instability is effective. HUD System Performance Measures provide the framework to complete this necessary work.  System Performance Measure 2: Returns to Homelessness Within 24 months provides insight into how effective programs of the homeless services system are in providing the necessary supports that are needed to ensure housing stability post program exit. It also highlights the importance of an adequate and accessible prevention system interventions that includes not only eviction prevention but also early interventions and housing stability services.