ClientTalk is where our industry experts give you their best insights and best practices across the spectrum of social services. In this episode, we talk with David Lewis, our head of Strategic Programs, about the importance of coordinated entry and why it matters for continuums of care (CoCs) and homeless management information systems (HMISes).
Before joining Eccovia as our head of Strategic Programs, David Lewis served as HMIS administrator for the City of Spokane and as a consultant for communities. He also currently serves as vice chairperson of the Board of the National Human Services Data Consortium (NHSDC).
Below is a summary of the interview from episode 2, where David walks us through the principles of coordinated entry (CE), why it matters, and where CE is likely to go in the future.
What Is Coordinated Entry, and Why Does It Matter?
Coordinated entry (CE) is easier to describe than implement, of course. It’s an effort by HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) to ensure communities are providing fair, equitable access to services. It is the process by which service providers assess and recommend services in a coordinated way so resources aren’t duplicated or wasted, and so they are maximally accessible to those who need them.
Before CE was implemented by HUD, it could be a question of who you knew or whether you got a caseworker who could navigate the systems well. This resulted in the most vulnerable often not getting the services they needed.
While communities have expressed frustration in managing the complexities of CE, it’s necessary because it ensures more efficient use of our finite and limited resources, which are insufficient to meet the scope of our mission in social services. CE ensures more people can access needed services.
Why Does Coordinated Entry Matter for Caseworkers?
“Caseworkers are heroes,” David says. “These are people who face secondary trauma and move mountains for their clients.” Case loads across the United States are growing, and burnout in this industry is increasing. Being able to coordinate the initiation of services across the CoC will help social workers manage their caseloads through automation and the decrease in manual processes; further, this will contribute to higher data quality.
HUD’s policy brief from 2015 outlines the following qualities that an effective CE process should have:
- Prioritization, where those with the greatest need receive priority for assistance;
- Low barrier to entry, where people are not screened out of assistance because of perceived barriers like substance use, criminal record, or lack of income;
- Housing First orientation, where people are housed quickly without preconditions;
- Person centered, where people can participate in deciding location and types of housing, level of services, and the like;
- Equity, where people have fair and equal access to CE, regardless of where and how they present for services;
- Emergency services that the CE process facilitates (rather than interferes with);
- Standardized access and assessment, where all access points and methods offer the same assessment and referral approach, regardless of the organization or worker performing the first intake;
- Inclusivity, where the CoC includes all subpopulations, even if different subpopulations go through different CE processes;
- Referral to projects, where the CE process makes referrals to all projects receiving Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and CoC Program funds;
- Referral protocols, where all eligible referrals are accepted unless the CoC has rejection protocols that show the rejections are justified and rare and that they still identify other access points for applicants;
- Outreach, where street-level outreach teams evaluate priority for people sleeping on the streets the same way any other person would be assessed;
- Ongoing stakeholder consultation, where all stakeholders participate in CE and planning, with feedback from people with lived experience;
- Information for local planning, where the CE process is used to gather information that also guides assistance planning and system change;
- Use for local attributes, where the CoC considers physical and political geography, partner capacity, and unique opportunities in a community;
- Safety planning, where protocols ensure the safety of people seeking assistance, especially for people fleeing domestic violence;
- Use for HMIS or other systems for CE, where the HMIS manages and collects data so the CE process can be integrated more easily; and,
- Full coverage, where the CoC serves an entire geographic area.
When HUD originally released this brief, the concept had already existed in many communities that were already attempting CE. However, the most effective CoCs are the ones that base their CE on an HMIS, leveraging the HMIS’s capabilities for sharing data.
In other words, coordinated entry helps us avoid the “wild west” of getting services, where clients don’t know where to go because of the lack of unified communication.
Stay tuned for part two of this podcast summary!