Why is this? Every housing program operates under very specific rules and regulations. The most basic of these define who is homeless, who is chronically homeless, and which housing solutions such status makes them eligible for. Other rules and regulations further segment these populations. Some programs are specific to veterans, but only veterans with specific types of discharges. Other programs are specific to persons with HIV/AIDS. Some programs are for only for single men and women, and others are only for families. These bureaucratic “hoops”, if not kept in mind and managed, may cause the best of systems to grind to a halt.
The TCHC team realized that if the housing priority list was to remain true to its name, rather than become another in a series of meaningless waiting lists, they needed to place a premium on documentation. Each client needed to have a documentation and priority status or DOPS. They needed a DOPS Coordinator to work on this task and this task only, so providers could easily “pull” persons off of the housing priority list without any bureaucratic holdups. At the above mentioned “front door” i.e. the point of assessment, all documents regarding a person’s history and status were to be collected. These would include birth certificates, driver’s licenses, marriage certificates, social security cards, military discharge papers, documents proving a person has a disability or HIV/AIDS, and documents attesting to one’s homelessness. Frequently, not all of these are readily available, and so the DOPS Coordinator would work with the service provider helping the client in obtaining these documents. Once all necessary documents were obtained, housing programs could then pull persons that match their programs, in order of priority off of the list and house them. This flow chart that MDHA uses today clarifies this in a visual way:
The TCHC team also realized they needed to create a set of Coordinated Assessment Prioritization Guidelines (the DOPS Matrix), that cross referencing each person’s DOPS status with a person’s level of vulnerability and need would guide housing providers, in deciding who needed to be housed first. This is the DOPS Matrix. It helpfully awards a priority ranking to each person, based on multiple factors, and simplifies the job of housing providers in a systematic way. By clicking here, you can see the DOPS Matrix in use by MDHA today.