To end homelessness, a community-wide coordinated approach to delivering services, housing, and programs is needed.
What is a coordinated systems approach?
To address homelessness, communities should take a coordinated approach, moving from a collection of individual programs to a community-wide response that is strategic and data driven. Communities that have adopted this approach use data about the needs of those experiencing homelessness to inform how they allocate resources, services, and programs.
The following are key elements of a coordinated systems approach:
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 by:
- Helping people move through the system faster to housing;
- Reducing new entries into homelessness by consistently offering prevention and diversion resources upfront; and
- Improving data collection and quality and providing accurate information on what kind of assistance consumers need.
Establishing a plan helps communities set goals and conceptualize what they should prioritize. A plan can include goals, a process and timeline for meeting those goals, and mechanisms for evaluating progress. Planning also brings providers, government officials, Continuum of Care leads and funders together to address topics such as how to identify needs of the population, decide on the structure of coordinated assessment, integrate prevention and shelter diversion resources, map out existing assessment and intake processes and sketch out preliminary needs assessment and screening tools.
Collecting and Examining Local Data
Data collection efforts have advanced considerably in the past few decades and have opened up new opportunities and insight into homelessness in America. Collecting data and using it to inform decisions, locally and nationally, is critical to addressing homelessness.
A Shared Data System
A Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is a local information technology system used to collect client, program, and system-level data on the provision of housing and services to homeless individuals and families and persons at risk of homelessness. Each Continuum of Care is responsible for operating an HMIS system according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Data Standards.
There are many benefits to a common and shared data system. From a client-level perspective, it contributes to a more seamless process of matching individuals, youth and families with the right resources. It can also make the comprehensive analysis of a community’s homeless system possible, which is critical to assessing incomes and ultimately improving practice and performance.
Performance Measurement and Evaluation
Performance measures can be used by communities to examine progress and to assess what steps they should be taking to further reduce homelessness. HUD has developed system-level performance measures to help communities gauge their progress in preventing and ending homelessness.
How A Coordinated Systems Approach Can End Homelessness
To end homelessness, a coordinated systems approach is needed. This approach requires using local data to inform decisions about how to most effectively allocate resources, services, and programs to best address the needs of those experiencing homelessness in the community.