No wrong door
Our community’s Coordinated Entry (CE) System provides a single entry point for people experiencing homelessness to connect to housing and other resources they want and need to end their homelessness. No matter which service provider someone contacts, they’re connected to our entire network of housing and supportive service providers.
Coordinated Entry (CE) is the way unhoused people in our community get connected to housing and other resources they want and need to end their homelessness. It’s a network of dozens of organizations across Austin and Travis County who coordinate services to create a community-wide Homelessness Response System (HRS). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that communities use CE if they receive Continuum of Care Program funding.
The purpose is to eliminate the need for someone to go from agency to agency to sign up for services. Instead, you can go to any agency that uses CE and get connected to every agency that uses it at the same time. CE helps determine which kinds of programs someone is eligible for, their housing preferences, and next steps while they’re waiting to be contacted by a housing program.
The most well-known part of the CE process is the Coordinated Assessment (CA), but the two are not the same thing. There are several other core components (see below) that make a coordinated system possible. The CA is simply the way most people get connected to our HRS because it’s the only way to apply for the 20 housing programs that use CE.
Our community uses a standard housing needs evaluation to determine someone’s wants and needs, as well as which programs they may be eligible for. Because of the limited availability of housing in our community, the Coordinated Assessment (CA) also serves to prioritize individuals and families most in need of housing services. The assessment is administered by trained direct service staff across various community service providers. Once assessed, households are referred to the programs they qualify for when those programs have openings.
See below for details about our community’s CA, the Austin Prioritization Assessment Tool (APAT).
Outreach and Navigation
Outreach and navigation teams from multiple service providers work to locate individuals and families identified through the Coordinated Assessment process to connect them to available resources and services. Outreach and navigation workers assist with things like acquiring IDs and other documentation, making and attending appointments, and ensuring everyone can access the services they need.
System Training and Development
ECHO provides direct assistance to support our partners in utilizing best practices to end homelessness. We train service providers to be Community Assessors, along with offering a variety of other training opportunities. We also work to develop new assessment capacity in our Homelessness Response System by leading initiatives like the Austin Street Outreach Collaborative (ASOC).
Health Care and Housing
Coordinated Entry supports the integration of healthcare services into the broader homeless services system. This includes an interdisciplinary approach that connects individuals experiencing homelessness to mainstream benefits, like SSI/SSDI, along with medical, behavioral health, and housing services. In collaboration with Seton Health, CommUnityCare, and Integral Care, ECHO helped establish the Care Connections Clinic which focuses on providing care to the most vulnerable individuals in our community.
Referral Coordination and Accountability
In addition to matching households to available community programs, our Coordinated Entry system establishes procedures to ensure individuals can access the services they qualify for. ECHO works with local providers to monitor an individual’s progress through the Homelessness Response System, and ongoing accountability processes make sure programs are meeting the needs of their clients.
Austin Prioritization Assessment Tool (APAT)
Our community uses a locally-created housing needs evaluation called the Austin Prioritization Assessment Tool (APAT) for our Coordinated Assessment (see Core Components above). The APAT is a questionnaire containing 21 questions that ask about the person, their current episode of homelessness, their health, and their history with housing insecurity. The purpose is to evaluate what kinds of housing programs a person wants, needs, and may be eligible for.
A collaborative group of community leaders developed the APAT. That group, now the Equity Committee of the Austin/Travis County Homelessness Response System Leadership Council, includes people with firsthand experience of homelessness, equity advocates, direct service providers, local government representatives, and ECHO staff. Work on the APAT began in 2019, starting with a thorough analysis of data in our local Homeless Management Information System. The group evaluated the data through an equity lens to develop a questionnaire that more accurately captures a person’s needs.
With such limited housing available in our community, the goal of the APAT is to prioritize people for housing and services who are least likely to self-resolve their homelessness without a formal intervention. As circumstances in our community change, so will the tool. The APAT Development Workgroup meets monthly to discuss and draft changes to the questionnaire, which are implemented according to the timeline in the Coordinated Assessment Policy. Find and join Workgroup meetings at the Leadership Council link below.
Become a Community Assessor
Currently, ECHO trains and support a network of more than 60 assessors at 21 organizations in our community.
Becoming an assessor requires training in both the Coordinated Entry process and the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), our local community-wide service coordination database. The process to get trained and certified as an assessor can take several months.
If you’d like to become an assessor, please fill out the Partner Interest Form below. The appropriate ECHO staff member can reach out with the right next steps for your individual needs.