A very important factor of ending homelessness is coming together as a community to find solutions to this dreadful problem. A coordinated, community-wide approach can develop services, housing and programs to address homelessness. This community-wide approach is often referred to as a coordinated systems approach. Rather than one community having multiple individual programs, this approach groups all programs into a community-wide response to homelessness. Data and the needs of the homeless population drives these communities to allocate resources, services and programs. The key factors of a coordinated systems approach are coordinated entry, planning, collecting and examining local data, a shared data system, and performance measurement and evaluation.
Coordinated entry is also known as coordinated assessment and coordinated intake. It is a process that quickly identifies, assesses, refers and connects people experiencing homelessness to housing and other services. This is accomplished no matter where the person is asking for help. Coordinated entry helps people receive housing faster, reduces the homelessness population by offering preventive services and resources, and improves data collection by providing accurate information about what kinds of assistance people need.
Secondly, planning helps communities set goals and determine what should be prioritized. A community’s plan should include goals, a timeline for meeting those goals, and ways to evaluate progress. Having a plan can bring community leaders together to address the needs of the population, the structure of the coordinate assessment, prevention and shelter resources.
Data collection has made tremendous advances over the years. These advancements have created new insights for the homeless population in the United States. Data is critical when making decisions to address the local and national homeless problem. Sharing data is equally important as collecting it.
Most homeless communities have programs called Continuum of Care, which is a regional or local planning committee that coordinates housing and other services. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s data standards each Continuum of Care is responsible for maintaining a Homeless Management Information System. An HMIS collects information about each client and program and contains data on housing, services and the homeless population. Having this shared data system makes it much easier to match individuals and families to the resources they need. Another benefit to a shared data system is being able to measure and evaluate the performance of services and programs. It is critical to track the progress of these programs to ultimately improve the homeless population.
To see an end to homelessness it this approach is necessary. A coordinated system allows for community leaders to come together and make informed decisions about the most effective ways to provide resources, services and programs to help those experiencing homelessness across US communities. Contact Humanity for the Homeless to learn more today!