The Promise of Coordinated Entry

The more I talk to people in the homeless services field around the country, the more convinced I am that we are all still trying to figure Coordinated Entry out. At this point, every community has some sort of system, point(s) of entry, written standards, governance structures—all the basics to comply with federal regulations and check off the boxes. But there is always room for homelessness systems to adapt and ensure that their resources are most fully and equitably meeting the needs of the people they serve. In this process, it helps to stay grounded in what effective Coordinated Entry can truly do for our communities.

The Role of Coordinated Entry

Coordinated entry, also known as coordinated assessment or coordinated intake, is a process designed to quickly identify, assess, refer, and connect people in crisis to housing and assistance, no matter where they show up to ask for help. It can pave the way for more efficient homeless assistance systems.

Here’s what Coordinated Entry can do:

  • Streamline rehousing efforts — Coordinated Entry takes the burden of navigating the labyrinth of local resources, programs, and services off the person who is experiencing the trauma of homelessness, and places it on the institutions charged with responding to that crisis.
  • Reduce disparities in rehousing — Homelessness results from the collective failure of policies and systems to work in the interest of the people who ultimately show up in homeless services systems. These policies often have a direct impact on people who disproportionately experience homelessness: generations of wealth stripping from Black communities, family rejection of queer and trans youth, the devastation of the opioid crisis, or the failure of our healthcare systems to put care over profits, to name a few. Coordinated Entry is a tool to take stock, get a holistic look at the full scale of the need in communities, see clearly who is being left behind, and do something to correct it.
  • Align community resources — When communities see each of its programs as part of a whole, and coordinate and align all our work and the resources in our system we can serve more people and do so better with the resources we already have. And because none of our systems have enough, this also gives us the tools we need to advocate more effectively for the additional resources we need to serve everyone.

Change is Hard, But Possible

In my experience, when a community starts down the path of implementing inclusive and equitable Coordinated Entry, it may feel like a tidal wave of crisis. When we increase access to our systems—numbers of identified people in our systems increase. When we more deeply engage each person to better understand what they need to reestablish housing stability—waitlists for housing and other programs increase. And when we genuinely listen to people engaging with our systems—people will tell us things that aren’t working and need to change. But having a more accurate picture of people’s needs is the first step to ensuring more cohesive service delivery, as daunting as it may seem initially.

Without meaningful and equitable assessment practices, communities may remain unaware of what kinds of resources it really takes to serve everyone with appropriate interventions for their specific needs, and to ensure a quick, attainable, and sustainable pathway back to housing for everyone. Without hearing what people are experiencing, we simply don’t know how to make our system work for people and will continue to perpetuate and replicate the harms of all the other systems around us.

Coordinated Entry, at its core, holds the promise that communities can know exactly what resources and practices they need to end homelessness once and for all. That knowledge is a powerful tool that communities can use to advocate for the resources their systems need to thrive.

Here are some antidotes to common obstacles that communities face as they try to make changes to their systems. These may help communities continue their work to transform Coordinated Entry into a tool for effective and equitable homelessness response.

The Alliance’s Stronger Together: A Roadmap to An Effective Homeless System Webinar Series includes a webinar titled Coordinated Entry: Best Practices in Centering Equity and Ensuring Effectiveness.

Visit the webinar page for additional resources (blogs, toolkits, trainings, and more) to find additional resources to increase consistency, efficiency, and equity in your communities’ work to end homelessness.