In the potential absence of federal appropriations, neither USICH nor would be operational. Read more about our shutdown guidelines.

Identification and Engagement

To end homelessness, we must quickly identify and engage individuals and families that experience it, including people who are sheltered and those who are unsheltered, in locations such as cars, parks, abandoned buildings, encampments, or on the street.

Many individuals experiencing homelessness are disengaged from—and may be distrustful of—public and private programs, agencies, and systems, and they may be reluctant to seek assistance. Helping individuals to overcome these barriers often requires significant outreach time and effort, and can take months or even years of proactive and creative engagement to build trust.


Communities can use housing-focused coordinated outreach to people who are unsheltered, in-reach to people in institutional settings, data from multiple systems, and other methods to identify and engage individuals and families experiencing homelessness, in conjunction with coordinated entry processes and other systems.

While recognizing that people may move among a variety of settings, communities need the capacity to:

  • Identify every individual and family who is unsheltered, in shelter, or in transitional housing settings or other residential programs, and to implement robust efforts to identify at-risk households
  • Coordinate a comprehensive set of strategies that collect information and data from hospitals, jails, schools, the child welfare system, hotlines and 2-1-1, and other community-based programs
  • Use HMIS and other data sources to build and maintain active lists of people experiencing homelessness and to track the homelessness status, engagements, and permanent housing placement for each individual or family

In order to comprehensively identify and engage all people experiencing homelessness, partnerships across multiple systems and sectors are critically important, particularly among homelessness service systems and health and behavioral health care providers, schools, early childhood care providers and other educators, child welfare agencies, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) agencies, law enforcement, criminal justice system stakeholders, workforce systems, faith-based organizations, and other community-based partners.