Developing Local Coordinated Entry Systems is Hard but Necessary Work

One of the most important recent developments from our work to end homelessness is the recognition that the impact of evidence-informed models like permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing are only fully realized when they work together as part of a coordinated system. Coordinated entry systems are a key part of an overall homelessness crisis response system that communities need to improve access to available housing and services and ensure the type and level of assistance provided to households is tailored to meet their specific needs. Too often, people experiencing homelessness have to navigate a complicated maze of uncoordinated programs in order to receive assistance.  There is a better, more effective way to respond to the crisis of homelessness.

To end homelessness in every community, and across the nation, we must build local systems that streamline and facilitate access to appropriate housing and services for families and individuals. Coordinated entry systems do just that.  Using a consistent and well-coordinated approach, coordinated entry systems screen applicants for eligibility for services; such as homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing, emergency shelter, affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, and other interventions. The needs and strengths of  each household are assessed to determine which interventions will be effective and are most appropriate, while also prioritizing people for assistance based on the severity of their needs.

Recognizing the importance of this effort, communities across the country have begun developing coordinated entry systems—often starting with targeted programs for Veterans and using that as a foundation to grow and serve everyone. Though still in the early stages of development, we have already begun to see how coordinated entry systems are improving and streamlining access to assistance and the targeting of services and housing programs. We are seeing a greater use of data-driven decision-making, planning, and performance monitoring. We are also seeing increasing coordination with mainstream systems and resources—which must happen if we are going to truly end homelessness. 

Building coordinated entry systems is hard work—I want to make sure we all acknowledge that. It doesn’t happen overnight, and there are no short cuts. Each community will need to overcome barriers, break down silos, and problem solve at the local level. Communities will likely encounter many of the same challenges; such as bringing early efforts to scale, ensuring the universal assessment tool used is integrated into a robust decision-making process, financing the system on an ongoing basis, and overcoming the limitations of current homeless data systems. While the challenges to getting there are real, the benefits of developing an effective coordinated entry system in each community is well worth the effort—especially when you consider the impact it can have in the lives of those in need of assistance.

We know the lion’s share of the work to develop coordinated entry systems—like most of the remarkable progress we’ve made—will be done by folks on the ground, by people in communities. Please know that USICH and our federal partners are determined to help communities navigate every challenge. In fact, there are many efforts and activities already underway to do just that, including the VA-led 25 City effort, HUD’s continuing technical assistance services, and USICH’s partnerships with local communities through our National Initiatives team. Federal partners are developing more tools and more opportunities to bolster local efforts, including in-depth guidance on what an effective coordinated entry system is and how it functions; tools to help improve assessment, targeting and prioritization; and strengthening connections between mainstream and homeless service systems.

As always, innovation and best practice come directly out of the work in communities, coordinated entry will prove to be no different.  We look forward to hearing and learning from every community and helping to bridge the peer-to-peer connections that will take innovation and best practice to scale across the country.

Thank you for your partnership. And on behalf of everyone here at USICH, Happy Holidays!