It comes without objection that the resources for homelessness assistance are scarce. Prior to the implementation of coordinated entry, the system in place to utilize these resources was fragmented, resulting in inefficient resource utilization.
HUD sought remedy this problem by establishing a cohesive system for preventing and ending homelessness in the form of coordinated entry. This new system has two simple objectives:
- Enhance quality of client screening and assessment
- Create targeted and efficacious program assistance
While these goals seem simple, the process necessary to achieve them is anything but easy.
Coordinated entry presents multi-faceted challenges. But while planning for these challenges has stretched Continuums of Care further than ever before, the benefits will far outweigh the stresses of implementation.
Clarity Human Services strives to simplify the basic processes of coordinated entry through comprehensive understanding of its challenges and their corresponding solutions.
The success of any coordinated entry model is contingent on the successful execution of 3 basic processes:
- Determine Client Need
- Precise Program Assignment
- Share Data Securely
An effective coordinated entry model is one that can master all 3 of these processes. This is achieved via a user-friendly HMIS that allows for customized and automated client assessment, referral, and secure data sharing.
Step 1: Determine Client Need
The Housing First service structure has replaced the previous ineffectual ‘first-come, first-serve’ method, which placed the most vulnerable individuals in the same selection pools as individuals with less dire housing needs. Services were prioritized for clients who were most likely to succeed, placing those who were most in need of at the end of the line.
HUD calls for a Standardized Assessment Tool in order to solve this problem. This tool must comprehensively measure the mental, physical, and socioeconomic antecedents and characteristics of homelessness.
HUD encourages CoCs to follow specific guidelines when choosing a standardized assessment tool. Discussion of these HUD guidelines can be found here.
Automation must at the forefront of a Standardized Assessment Tool implementation. This assessment must not only automatically determine client need, but also ‘rank’ the client based on their score to indicate their priority level as compared to other clients.The assessment score must then automatically generate a selection of relevant programs that will best meet client need. These processes must occur in real time.
Other types of integrated functionality can reinforce a Standardized Assessment Tool to better determine client need and priority level. Income verification as well as the incorporation of official Area Median Income (AMI) and Poverty Guidelines is useful in this manner.
Step 2: Coordinated Entry Assignment
Referral capabilities lie at the very heart of coordinated entry. The end user should be able to have the following capabilities readily available to them:
- View/manage all pending referrals within their agency
- View/manage all referrals completed and denied by their agency
- View/manage all referrals sent by their agency (to both outside agencies and to programs within their agency) that are either pending, completed, or denied depending on the option chosen.
The end user should also have the ability to view/manage a community queue. This queue should be similar to a community-wide waitlist showing all pending referrals within the system.
This referral management system should be interactive, allowing the user to move referrals into their appropriate locations as well as view a referral history detailing all activity for each particular referral.
As with the Standardized Assessment Tool, all referral processes should be automated and occur in real-time.
Step 3: Coordinated Entry Secure Data Sharing
Community-wide collaboration is essential to effectively move each client through the system. This collaboration requires extensive sharing of client data between agencies. However, such inter- and intra-agency data sharing poses potential risk to data security and privacy. As such, HMIS software must feature secure system-wide data sharing capabilities as well as inter-agency communication methods that ensure data security and privacy.
HMIS customizability is the foundation of such secure inter- and intra-agency data sharing. System Administrators must be able to fully control how their agency shares data.
Optimum HMIS Sharing functionality can be presented in 5 categories:
- Access Roles. System Administrators have the ability to create different Access Roles, each with different capabilities. For example, if they have volunteers who come to the agency just to do data entry, they can create an Access Roles that allows them to view and modify only data necessary to their purpose. Different Access Roles can be customized to end users at the individual and/or group level.
- Sharing Defaults. Allow the System Administrator to configure how each agency shares information with other agencies. These configurations serve as default settings, meaning they are applicable to every agency.
- Agency Exceptions. If there is a particular agency that requires sharing options that are different from the Sharing Default, the System Administrator can create an ‘Agency Exception’. This will allow them to tailor the Sharing settings to fit the specific agency.
- Sharing Groups. Sharing Groups enable the System Administrator to assign separate Sharing Groups, allowing these separate network groups to have further autonomy within the system. This eliminates the need to create multiple individual sharing exceptions for multiple agencies.
- Departmental Sharing. Departmental Sharing enables the System Administrator to regulate information such as program/service history, case notes, and client files. If an end user within the same agency is not granted departmental access, then they will not be able to see program/service history for the associated program in the client history, nor will the program appear in the available list of programs in the program tab of the client record, even though they are in the same agency. The System Administrator can then assign any combination of departmental data restrictions to end-users with departmental access.
CoCs must embrace coordinated entry, and look towards the hopeful future that is brimming on the horizon of the future this service arena. Its principles will enhance the overall coordination of homeless services by reducing system-wide fragmentation. Thus each community that adopts coordinated entry is taking large strides to ending and preventing homelessness.