It seeks to divert individuals from having to enter into or engage with the system. It recognizes that homelessness is not homogeneous; it is on a continuum. Many of those who seek our help have the capacity to self-resolve, with the help of mainstream resources, or “light touch” one-time assistance[ii]. In
It assesses, prioritizes, and only then places individuals into housing. This is referred to by scholars and the Federal Government as Coordinated Assessment, or Coordinated Access. In the absence of such a system, homeless service providers each operate on their own, and when approached by an individual needing help, typically ask some version of this question, “Will this person be successful in our program?” This leads to those with lesser needs and lower vulnerability being served, while those with greater needs and vulnerability are turned away.[v]
In an effective coordinated system, the system as a whole asks, “What solutions best match the needs of this person, and will end their homelessness quickly and permanently?” The system has one (virtual) entry point only. No placements are made in any program without:
- Assessing – We objectively and uniformly assess each person, with an evidence-based tool[vi];
- Prioritizing – We prioritize each person for service, based on the level of their vulnerability and according to their specific needs. Each person is awarded a priority status or P number. The lower the number, the higher the priority.
- Placing – All clients go on to a unified Housing Priority List, and are housed based on their priority status and specific needs.
MDHA’s Housing Priority List (HPL) has been operational since early 2016. It represents the demand side of the housing equation. It is managed by the Documentation and Prioritization Status (DOPS) Coordinator, who ensures that the persons on it have not only been assessed and prioritized for service, but also have all necessary documents, so they may be housed without delay. Housing providers are expected to house those with a lower P number (indicating greater need and vulnerability) first. As of February 2018, there are about 750 individuals on the Housing Priority list, ready to be housed.
The Housing Inventory Chart (HIC) contains all beds funded through our Continuum of Care (CoC) program. It represents the supply side of the housing equation. It is managed by the Housing Resources Team, who ensure that when a unit becomes available, it is filled as soon as possible. The motto of the Housing Resources Team is “No Empty Bed”. All CoC program resources must be fully utilized, with every bed filled and every penny of federal housing dollars spent. The team also actively grows the supply of known housing, by finding housing units outside of the CoC program.
The CoC’s performance in this core area is constantly monitored by the CoC Performance Analyst, who produces the Housing Priority List Tracker, which aggregates all of the individuals on the Housing Priority List by priority status. The Analyst produces the quarterly[vii] Homeless Response System Community Dashboard[viii], through which MDHA tracks the community’s performance in housing individuals experiencing homelessness along five performance indicators on the demand side and five performance indicators on the supply side.
[ii] This idea is referred to as Progressive Engagement. See more on this concept, and its application to homelessness in A Prevention-Centered Approach to Homelessness Assistance: A Paradigm Shift? by Dennis Culhane, Stephen Metraux, and Thomas Byrne (2011), http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1105&context=dennis_culhane
[v] See more at http://endinghomelessnessmdha.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-how-to-of-building-effective.html and http://endinghomelessnessmdha.blogspot.com/2016/03/coordinated-access-heart-of-effective.html
[vi] Our Continuum of Care, like many across the world, uses the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT from OrgCode Consulting – www.orgcode.com.
[vii] See http://www.mdhadallas.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/MDHA-Homeless-Response-System-Community-Dashboard-3Q-July-September-2017.pdf for the latest report.