New Homeless Coordinated Entry System in Pierce County
by Marcy Stahl, Program Manager
On Friday, April 8, 150 community housing and healthcare providers attended a presentation about the launch of Coordinated Entry hosted by Pierce County Community Connections at the downtown Bates campus.
The Coordinated Entry Partnership of Associated Ministries, Catholic Community Services, Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare and Comprehensive Life Resources shared information about changes to the homeless crisis response system and what the community can anticipate from this system moving forward. During the three hour meeting a lot of very important information was exchanged and both Pierce County and the CE Partnership committed to update the community as the year progresses.
The Coordinated Entry leaders shared their vision of how the new Coordinated Entry system will be experienced by clients and housing providers alike. This new homeless crisis response system has been designed with a ‘no wrong door’ approach. Clients can access the system in a number of ways that are pertinent to their current crisis situation. For example, a person can be sleeping outside and will be contacted by an outreach worker to offer access to the system. It can also mean that once a family comes to a shelter for help they will have access to a Coordinated Entry specialist to begin the process. It can also mean if a person has access to a working phone, they can call the main phone number for Coordinated Entry (also known as Access Point 4 Housing) and can speak to a live person about their situation. If a person is a veteran accessing veteran services, they can also be connected to Coordinated Entry for services. Ease of access to resources and housing is a hallmark feature of the new Coordinated Entry system.
Moving forward, Coordinated Entry will be serving households (one or more members) who meet the federal definition of homeless under two HUD categories: Category 1, literally homeless in a shelter or somewhere not meant for human habitation; and Category 4, fleeing domestic violence. The process for those who are category 1 or 4 will be identical. Clients will contact the system in whatever way fits their current situation and they will be offered a diversion conversation about housing options and an opportunity to explore creative housing solutions. If this conversation, which is client-driven, does not yield a viable option that can be accomplished in 30 days or less, clients will receive an assessment of housing history known as a priority tool and that information will be placed on hold for a referral option to a housing provider. This new priority tool replaces the previous strength-based assessment and will assign a score in order to prioritize households waiting for a housing referral based on vulnerability and potential barriers that are preventing them from finding housing on their own. This tool and score remain within the homeless database and will automatically match those with the highest score on any given day to the next available housing program opening. The priority tool is currently being field-tested and analyzed to make sure it is working properly. Implementation of the fully vetted tool is anticipated to begin before year end.
The new system is not just a partnership effort to end homelessness in Pierce County. This is a community-wide effort and commitment to making homelessness rare, one time and brief. We will know this new system is successful when people receive the right resources at the right time, more households are given the opportunity to successfully resolve their own housing crises, the hardest to serve are helped by our limited resources and people are moving to permanent housing and not returning to the system.
More information can be found in Our Approach to Ending Homelessness, a brief guide published by Pierce County Community Connections that answers many of the questions that have been raised about the new system.