Date Published: August 2016
Federal partners have recently identified coordinated entry (CE) as a key component of the coordinated community response to prevent and end youth homelessness in 2020. CE is also required for all housing programs receiving HUD Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) funding and strongly recommended for all of a community’s homelessness-dedicated resources. In order for these community-wide processes to appropriately serve youth, CoCs need to address the developmental and service needs of unaccompanied homeless youth and ensure that all community stakeholders, including Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) providers, child welfare agencies, school systems, systems of justice, workforce systems partners, and other youth-serving organizations, come together for both the planning and implementation of a youth-inclusive CE process.
A youth-inclusive CE process requires CoCs to implement a systems-level, youth-focused approach for youth access, screening and assessment*, prioritization, and referral to housing and supportive services. The intent of CE is to standardize and streamline the process for youth access to homelessness-dedicated resources across the entire homelessness crisis response system, and to lower the overall burden on youth to receive needed housing and supportive services. This process allows a CoC to make decisions based on the availability of resources across an entire community, not just at an individual program or project, expanding a youth’s access to needed community resources. Youth should also be screened and assessed with the same standardized, culturally competent tools as their peers, regardless of who the assessor may be, and expect to be referred according to the same prioritization factors that are used for all youth in the community. An effective, youth-centered process also reduces the number of interviews that require repeating highly personal information, often involving traumatic experiences, and reduces the amount of time it takes to receive housing and supportive services.
Included in the CE process is the implementation of an initial housing-focused assessment of youth needs and strengths, which is used in conjunction with a process (which may be specific to youth) to prioritize housing and supportive services in a timely manner. Prioritization helps to ensure that the highest need, most vulnerable youth, with the most risk factors and fewest protective factors across the community, are prioritized for housing services (see FAQ 2934 for what “Assessment” means in the CE context and FAQ 2935 for more detail on prioritization factors for vulnerable youth and the preliminary intervention model of the Federal Framework to End Youth Homelessness). Prioritization is critical because the homelessness crisis response system for youth is under-resourced and CoCs need to make tough decisions around prioritizing limited homelessness-dedicated housing and services. The tough decisions that a CoC must make around prioritization are a prime example of why it is critical for a broad set of community stakeholders to be actively involved in the CoC and in the design and implementation of CE.
It is important to note that HUD and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) believe that no individual should have to sleep on the streets. Therefore, the CE process should never be a barrier to accessing emergency services, such as emergency shelter, respite, and crisis residential assistance. Communities should work to ensure that all individuals seeking emergency services have access to those services without barriers.
The CE process also gives a community a more complete and up-to-date vacancy, turn-away, and overall utilization picture that allows community planners to make better decisions about resource allocation and funding requests. More accurate, research-informed placements and refined pathways to well-coordinated housing and services can reduce burden and redundancies and connect youth experiencing homelessness to mainstream services. The CE development and feedback processes have the potential to serve as a powerful vehicle for additional youth systems-building and innovative collaboration in the community. CE can give your community the power to make more efficient use of the beds and services currently available and the data to argue for new targeted resources.
*The terms screening and assessment are being used in this document in a few different ways. In the context of CE, the terms screening and assessment involve tools that specifically measure an individual’s vulnerability to harm and continued homelessness and need for housing and related services. In contrast, behavioral assessment follows behavioral screening if the screening results are positive for a particular behavior or symptom. Ongoing assessment can occur both for behavioral services, such as mental health or addiction services, and for other types of services and supports, such as more intensive rental assistance, throughout a youth’s involvement in the homelessness system.