There’s a new Coordinated Assessment Information Sheet!

We are pleased to finally be able to post an updated flyer that describes the Coordinated Assessment process in detail, both what the current process is, as well as what expectations and actions should be once the initial intake portion of Coordinated Assessment is complete.  Please take a quick moment to review the document itself, as it should answer most questions about the process as a whole.

Coordinated Assessment Client Information Sheet

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Coordinated Assessment FAQs

Why hasn’t my homeless service agency/program been contacted about involvement in Coordinated Assessment?

Since Coordinated Assessment is a HUD funded mandate for CoC (Continuum of Care) and ESG (Emergency Solutions Grant) funded programs, we will be starting implementation with the mandated programs.  Some non-mandated programs at our three front doors, Caritas, Front Steps and The Salvation Army (downtown) will be included in our initial rollout.  Once the system is established we hope to bring on as many community providers as possible in order to best serve our clients.

Who's going to do it? How will it take into consideration all that we already do at intake?

Agency intake and assessment workers at our defined entry points will complete the assessment using the tool. The process will vary according to agency intake procedures and the client’s level of housing need. Recall that the assessment might warrant that no intake at your agency is performed at all, because the assessment might direct the client to more suitable services provided by another agency. ECHO will work with agencies individually to streamline the process as much as possible (for example, including Universal Data Elements in the first level of the assessment so you don’t have to collect them again), but as we are changing the way the entire system functions, there will be changes for all providers to manage. ECHO will be as supportive and active as possible during this transition period.

What kind of training will intake and assessment staff receive?

Once the tool has been finalized, staff will be trained on administering the tool, entering the data into HMIS and referring clients to agencies according to their housing needs.  Additionally, we hope to train virtual (telephone) staff where applicable on the new process, and all staff will receive additional training on how to best serve domestic violence survivors through the Coordinated Assessment (CA) process.

How will shelter intake process be changed?

Intake or assessment workers will be trained and required to conduct coordinated assessments at identified front doors within a designated amount of time upon client presenting shelter.

How will agencies who are not selected as host sites participate in coordinated assessment?

Once the new process is in place, agencies that are not host sites will be expected to send people experiencing homelessness to one of the new designated coordinated assessment centers as soon as they arrive. This will ensure they have access to the same assessment process and resources as everyone else. These sites may also be receiving referrals from the Coordinated Assessment process. Agencies do not have to be in HMIS in order to receive referrals; they will have to meet with HMIS staff to enter their program eligibility components into the system.

Why do we need to submit our program’s eligibility/admissions criteria?

While improving efficiencies at the front door will make a positive difference in our clients’ lives, the most important difference will be made by having a system that is better designed to meet their needs. To create this system, we need to identify gaps in services by looking at who programs accept and who they cannot/will not serve and why. This will both help us make sure that only the most appropriate referrals are made as well as allow us to address any unmet needs among our populations as soon as possible.

Will we be forced to change our eligibility criteria?

No, no you will not. However, we WILL ask that programs take a good, hard look at the gaps we identify in the system and make sure they are comfortable with those cracks. We will continue to generally request that programs remove any barriers to programs that are not required by funders or otherwise critical to their operations. If no one is willing to reexamine their current criteria at all, then the same gaps that exist in the current system will remain.

How will capacity be addressed among participating agencies?

ECHO is actively seeking funding to assist partners with increased capacity, and we will also be supplementing staff with the ECHO assessment team. ECHO also encourages agencies to consider coordinated assessment when potential funding opportunities may arise.

How will data be shared by SafePlace?

We don’t know yet. We are meeting with SafePlace and working to find an ideal solution that meets all Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) requirements, allows our clients equal access to services in the community, and also keeps their safety as our first priority. We have teleconferenced with over 10 communities around the country so far and have not yet found a solution to this. We’d love to hear your input and ideas.

What about adding additional points of entry if need be?

Additional points of entry will be added as needed, based on data and service provider feedback.

What were the responses to coordinated assessment at the annual meeting in November?

Overall, the feedback was positive and supportive of the framework. Many agencies and staff recognize the need to streamline our efforts and allow our clients to benefit from the efficiencies promised by coordinated assessment. Nobody said, “Don’t do this.” Nonetheless, many people wanted to know the final details such as what procedures will be followed? Who will do this? How will we know who can serve them? When will the assessment be done? We have been and will continue to work together to answer these questions and more over the weeks and months ahead.

Why is 211 not at the table?

Early in the development process, the Steering Committee saw little immediate benefit to including 211 in our plans. However, we are monitoring statewide developments with 211, and we are interested in your ideas as to how we might integrate them into the coordinated assessment process. We would like to eventually see the addition of a dedicated hotline into our system.

What exactly do we need to do to utilize HMIS and get ready for coordinated assessment? How will staff be affected?

The new Release of Information (ROI) further opening the system needs to go into effect. We also need to get the eligibility module up and running, including agencies entering their info, and this module needs to be tested. We will need to create bed lists in shelter point so we can have real time capacity information, and we will also need to set up waitlists for programs. Depending on Service Point this feature may not be available at the beginning of implementation. Staff will need to be trained to use these new features.

Many agencies have walk-in’s, will walk-in’s not be allowed or will agencies determine how to handle these?

The idea behind CA is to close all the side doors, meaning that in order to receive services initially at Continuum of Care (CoC)/Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) funded programs (and our hope is to eventually include all homeless service providers over time), priority will be given to those who have completed assessments and have been referred. Communities where CA is working best strictly enforce closing all side doors. They also have agreed upon limits for not accepting referrals. For instance, one agency may say that out of every 5 referrals, they will accept at least 3. Or if they don’t accept a referral, they may agree to find an appropriate agency that can accept the client.

How will Travis County participate?

We are working with Travis County Community Centers to determine where their team is seeing the most individuals experiencing homelessness. Once a community center(s) is targeted, our hope is to get them set up with HMIS and completing assessments and referrals as well. This is part of Phase 2.

How will ECHO monitor CA? Periodic reviews?

ECHO will use HMIS and provider feedback to monitor the system. Once the system is up and running, based on user data, we will be able to run reports on where clients are referred, how many gain services or housing, and where our service gaps exist. We will conduct 3, 6 and 9 month reviews initially.

How will the potential large number of intakes be managed?

The assessments will be done in phases. ECHO is gathering data on how many intakes are done on average per day at potential front door sites. The planned Kick-off this summer will also jump start the process and help remove the pressure on the downtown shelters from the initial roll-out.

A key to successful coordination of this effort is communication. Can updates and information from the workgroups be sent to agencies and other stakeholders?

ECHO realizes not everyone can make it to all the meetings all the time, and we now have meeting minutes from the workgroups posted on the website. We have found that when we have posted things for discussion on the boards there has not been much, if any, participation. It is our hope that agencies will send the appropriate individuals to the meetings and those individuals will update staff at existing internal agency meetings. We will continue to make the minutes and announcements available on our website. CoC Executive Directors are also receiving monthly updates from ECHO’s Executive Director Ann Howard.

Are we ready, really ready as a community of service providers and funders to embrace the strategy of prioritizing the most vulnerable for the homeless system?

Good question. How ‘bout it folks, is your agency/organization ready? ECHO is and so is HUD! What needs to change at your agency?

What is the outcome of being able to classify/categorize clients at this time?

The ideal outcome is to get clients on the most appropriate pathway to permanent, stable housing for their particular situation as quickly as possible. We recognize we need more Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) units and Rapid Rehousing (RRH) dollars, and we are working every day to make this possible, however, finding new funding takes time. With Coordinated Assessment data we will finally have created an accurate needs gap assessment for the community. The community can then use this information to help make decisions about which programs, beds, and resources are most stressed and in need of further funding and expansion.

Would this plan not be better suited as a 5-10 year plan for growth so there can be more realistic solutions to putting clients into “buckets”? Why are we doing this so fast?

Congress passed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act in 2010 and promulgated the interim COC rule in 2012 – both indicating that local communities would need to begin implementing coordinated assessment in summer of 2014. The ECHO Steering Committee has been working with a consultant for over a year. The 2013 HUD COC Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) submitted in February 2014 inquired about our establishment of a system. Bottom line is we don’t have 5-10 years.

Will there be additional points of entry if it’s determined that some homeless individuals are falling through the cracks?

Yes, there will likely be many lessons learned and system improvements implemented during this process. This has never been done before though, so Austin Travis County and the rest of the country will have to flexible.

How can we share the drive and philosophy of shared resources to our teams and staff and other community providers?

Success in ending homelessness is not about the individual organization. It’s about a system of housing and services, across programs and agencies that work together toward a shared end goal. Sentiments like “my clients”, “my community”, “my agency”, and “my plan” do nothing to build a system prepared to end homelessness. We’ve tried this isolationist approach for a long time, and it hasn’t worked. Let’s add some words into our discussion like “our problem”, “our clients”, “our goal”. Let’s collaborate across agencies and come up with community solutions. Look at it this way, if cooperation and coordination fail, we’re not any worse off than where we started.

How can we utilize and train staff who may not have access to HMIS licenses to complete assessments?

This is an issue we will be discussing in the various workgroups, and we need your assistance figuring out what the potential solutions might be. ECHO is willing to consider reducing license costs so we can have more licenses used throughout the community.

If you have further questions please contact Preston Petty, Coordinated Assessment Program Director at prestonpetty@austinecho.org