Developing Coordinated Entry Systems is Hard but Necessary Work

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness - No on should experience homelessness. No one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.

Across the Country, Communities Are Developing Coordinated Entry Systems to End Homelessness


December 18, 2014
Coordinated entry is an important process through which people experiencing homelessness can access tailored housing and mainstream services within the community. 

Developing Local Coordinated Entry Systems is Hard but Necessary Work 
A Message from Laura Green Zeilinger
One of the most important recent developments from our work to end homelessness is the recognition that the impact of evidence-informed models like permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing are only fully realized when they work together as part of a coordinated system.  Coordinated entry systems are a key part of an overall homelessness crisis response system that communities need to improve access to available housing and services and ensure the type and level of assistance provided to households is tailored to meet their specific needs. Too often, people experiencing homelessness have to navigate a complicated maze of uncoordinated programs in order to receive assistance.  There is a better, more effective way to respond to the crisis of homelessness.

To end homelessness in every community, and across the nation, we must build local systems that streamline and facilitate access to appropriate housing and services for families and individuals. Coordinated entry systems do just that.  Using a consistent and well-coordinated approach, coordinated entry systems screen applicants for eligibility for services; such as homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing, emergency shelter, affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, and other interventions. The needs and strengths of  each household are assessed to determine which interventions will be effective and are most appropriate, while also prioritizing people for assistance based on the severity of their needs.

Recognizing the importance of this effort, communities across the country have begun developing coordinated entry systems--often starting with targeted programs for Veterans and using that as a foundation to grow and serve everyone. Though still in the early stages of development, we have already begun to see how coordinated entry systems are improving and streamlining access to assistance and the targeting of services and housing programs. We are seeing a greater use of data-driven decision-making, planning, and performance monitoring. We are also seeing increasing coordination with mainstream systems and resources--which must happen if we are going to truly end homelessness. 

Building coordinated entry systems is hard work--I want to make sure we all acknowledge that. It doesn't happen overnight, and there are no short cuts. Each community will need to overcome barriers, break down silos, and problem solve at the local level. Communities will likely encounter many of the same challenges; such as bringing early efforts to scale, ensuring the universal assessment tool used is integrated into a robust decision-making process, financing the system on an ongoing basis, and overcoming the limitations of current homeless data systems. While the challenges to getting there are real, the benefits of developing an effective coordinated entry system in each community is well worth the effort-especially when you consider the impact it can have in the lives of those in need of assistance.

Kelly King Horne (right) and Libby Boyce (second to left) join Secretary Perez and Laura Green Zeilinger to discuss coordinated entry systems at the December Council meeting.
All across the country, communities are developing coordinated entry systems to streamline and facilitate access to appropriate housing and services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness.  In the Greater Richmond area of Virginia and in Los Angeles County, California--as in other places-efforts to bring these systems online are in full swing. In both communities, they have had to navigate some big challenges and problem-solve some tough issues, but coordinated entry is already having a real and measurable impact on their efforts to end homelessness. As communities move further forward in the development of their own coordinated entry systems, tailored to their local contexts, sharing best practices and lessons learned across the country is becoming even more essential. We hope the lessons learned in these two communities can help others make better progress. USICH is eager to learn from every community and to help communities learn from one another.

First, it's important to understand what coordinated entry is and how it works. Coordinated entry is an important process through which people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness can access the crisis response system in a streamlined way, have their strengths and needs quickly assessed, and be quickly connected to appropriate, tailored housing and mainstream services within the community. Standardized assessment tools and practices used within local coordinated assessment processes must take into account the unique needs of single adults, families with children, and unaccompanied youth. The assessment process should help guide decisions about the best options to address the needs of each household, while providing meaningful choice to participants, rather than determining eligibility for or entry into a single program within the system. These assessment processes can help ensure that the most intensive interventions are targeted to  those with the most significant needs. Effective coordinated entry systems must seek to ensure that the community's programs and agencies have the training and capacity to provide trauma-informed services. Successful systems also offer safety planning, advocacy, and access to specialized services that address the safety concerns of individuals, and parents with children, fleeing domestic violence.
Now, let's hear from two communities-Richmond and Los Angeles County-who presented at the December 2014 full Council meeting regarding their local efforts to implement coordinated assessment, their successes, their lessons learned, and the challenges that they continue to tackle. 

A blog by Matthew Doherty

Many readers have likely heard about the great progress being made toward ending homelessness in Salt Lake and Utah.  This fall, I had the privilege of joining more than 475 people for the 11th Annual Utah Homeless Summit organized by Utah Department of Workforce Services' Housing and Community Development Division. The Summit also coincided with the release of Utah's 2014 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness prepared by the State Community Services Office.  The report describes the remarkable progress Utah has made under its ten-year plan to end both chronic and Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, documenting that "Chronic homelessness has declined 72 percent since 2005 and chronic homelessness among Veterans has reached an effective zero."  Such progress should help convince skeptics that making progress on homelessness can be a reality in communities all across the country. Summit participants spent the day both celebrating Utah's progress and engaging in dialogue to ensure that progress is sustained.

I was honored to have the opportunity to address the Summit. Preparing my remarks offered me the chance to reflect on the important lessons I've learned over my many years of working with partners in Salt Lake and Utah - lessons that I think any community can learn from and replicate.  Some of what partners in Salt Lake and Utah have done remarkably well can be fairly technical, such as employing specific development and financing strategies, mechanisms for engaging mainstream resources, using data to set concrete goals and drive decisions, and targeting resources for greatest impact.

But a lot of what I think has made the biggest difference for Salt Lake and the rest of the State is how they've done their work. Some strategic lessons I've learned include...

News from Our Partners

HUD Secretary Julián Castro Releases Statement on HUD's FY2015 Budget

HUD Secretary Castro issued a statement on HUD's FY 2015 budget, noting that HUD's $45 billion budget allows the Department to support the individuals and organizations that they currently serve, but also limits HUD's ability to help some new families reach the middle class or pursue their dream of homeownership.

Ann Oliva, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, Discusses the Point-In-Time Count in this Month's SNAPS In Focus 

Each year the PIT Count Report releases data that communities collect and report to HUD, without extrapolation by HUD. It is not perfect - especially on newer requirements like the collection of data on unaccompanied youth - but it is the most ambitious and comprehensive count we have of sheltered and unsheltered homelessness, and it provides a lot of information we didn't have 10 years ago.

Submission Deadline for 2014 AHAR Data - All Persons and Veterans - is this Friday, December 19, 2014, at 11:59 PM PST
The deadline for submitting the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) data for All Persons and Veterans is this Friday, December 19, 2014. Communities must ensure that their data is entered by 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on Friday, December 19, 2014, as the Homelessness Data Exchange (HDX) will be locked for editing at that time.
Learn More
Administration for Children and Families Releases the Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters  
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently released a new resource designed to help shelter staff create shelter environments that are safe and developmentally appropriate for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers as part of its early childhood work on the Interagency Workgroup to End Family Homelessness.Download the Tool

HUD and VA Team Up to Help 2,000 Veterans Find Permanent Homes
HUD and VA announced on December 8, 2014 the second round of housing assistance to connect 1,984 Veterans with permanent supportive housing.
True Colors Fund Releases 'True Youth Count Toolkit'
We all have a role in ending youth homelessness, and we can all take an active role in making sure all youth are counted. Youth are a unique group, with a particular set of experiences and survival strategies that require targeted counting methods. It's important to devise a specific plan that is catered to your community's unique circumstances and utilizes existing resources. 
National Alliance Issues Brief on Using ESG Program to Fund Rapid Re-Housing
The Alliance has published the first in a series of briefs that are meant to provide community leaders and rapid re-housing providers information on how to take advantage of federal programs to fund rapid re-housing. This first research brief, featuring the Emergency Solutions Grant Program (ESG), focuses on how the ESG program can be used to rapidly re-house single adults, families, and youth.

HUD and National League of Cities Announced a New Memorandum of Understanding to Help Fight against Veteran Homelessness in Cities across the Country
HUD and National League of Cities (NLC) announced a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help fight against Veteran homelessness in cities across the country. To date, more than 255 cities, counties and states are pledging to end Veteran homelessness in their communities by 2015 using the power of federal, state, local, and non-profit resources.


Developing Local Coordinated Entry Systems is Hard but Necessary Work
Lessons Learned from Richmond and Los Angeles
In Utah, a History of Progress Inspires Greater Action
News from Our Partners
We STILL Believe in Human Rights
The Private Sector Steps Up To End Homelessness in Massachusetts
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307 mayors, 6 governors, and 43 county and city officials have committed to end homelessness among Veterans in their communities by the end of 2015.

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Around the country, more communities are working in partnership with the Federal government to develop housing crisis response systems that effectively prevent and end homelessness.  No longer can there be any question that ending homelessness is possible, if we dedicate resources and energy to this goal. This shift brings with it the opportunity for us to meet the basic human rights of everyone in our community-when we put people first and focus on the human need for housing and proven, cost-effective solutions, we can make a difference.

Last year, USICH marked Human Rights Day, by launching a blog series entitled "I Believe in Human Rights." We believe now, as we believed then, that the rights to have basic human needs met are among the most fundamental of human rights and are the core of our moral argument that homelessness should be ended.

The series included more than a dozen blogs, including those from then HUD Secretary and now OMB Director Shaun DonovanState officials, international advocates, and many more.  One year later, the passion, experience, and commitment to human rights demonstrated in these blogs continue to resonate deeply with us.  Building on the series, USICH launched a new page on its website dedicated to Human Rights and Alternatives to Criminalization. Both USICH and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty were asked to share our model of human rights collaboration at a meeting at the Department of Justice, to help them take their own steps toward addressing justice issues through a human rights lens.


By Mary Corthell

In 2012, the number of families experiencing homelessness living in the shelter system in Massachusetts had increased significantly. As a shelter entitlement State, Massachusetts law provides immediate access to shelter to families that are determined eligible. Realizing that the homelessness crisis required immediate action from multiple partners, affordable housing owners came together, in concert with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, to assist in the effort by offering an additional housing solution. As a result of that meeting in 2012, the owners agreed to donate seed money to a non-profit pilot which would be known as New Lease, which aims to prioritize people experiencing homelessness for HUD's multifamily properties' affordable rental units. At the outset this group of affordable housing owners agreed to rent 10 - 15 percent of vacant, Project Based Section 8 family apartments to New Lease. As of December, 2014, 80 families have been housed through New Lease. 

Before the start of the pilot program the affordable housing owners had several concerns. They wondered what type of referral system would be able to expeditiously refer families experiencing homelessness to the property to avoid prolonged, vacancy loss. They also wondered if legal costs would escalate due to an increase in lease violations, if the service providers would be available when a family needed assistance, and if the implementation of this new preference would be a drain on property management staff. There was wide consensus that if New Lease was going to attract more affordable property owners, these concerns had to be addressed.

Read more.
Upcoming Events

National Homeless Persons' 
Memorial Day
Dec. 21, 2014
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Corporation for Supportive Housing Webinar: Health and Housing PartnershipsJan. 14, 2015 at 2-3 p.m. Eastern
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2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth HomelessnessFeb. 18 - 20, 2015

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