My CoC needs to prioritize households to meet the requirements of HUD’s Notice CPD-17-01, but we are concerned that we might inadvertently violate federal civil rights laws and requirements, including the Fair Housing Act. How do we prioritize related to vulnerability/need in a non-discriminatory way?

Date Published: October 2018

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The assessment and prioritization process must be based on an individual’s vulnerability or need level according to a Continuum of Care’s (CoC) standardized prioritization criteria. In the prioritization stage, the Coordinated Entry (CE) staff person uses assessment data to compare the participant’s level of need with the needs of others on the priority list and prioritizes the person for housing and supportive services based on the CoC’s prioritization standards. Prioritization must be based on a specific and definable set of criteria that are made publicly available through written prioritization standards, conducted according to the CoC’s written prioritization policies and procedures, and applied consistently throughout the CoC to all households being prioritized.

CoCs are prohibited from using the prioritization process to discriminate based on protected classes as defined by Federal Civil Rights laws and requirements. These protected classes include race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, familial status, or disability. Additionally, the CoC’s policies must be consistent with HUD’s Equal Access requirements, including that (1) housing and shelters funded under CoC, Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA), and other HUD housing programs must be made available to otherwise eligible individuals without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status; and (2) equal access to CPD programs, shelters, other buildings and facilities, benefits, services, and accommodations must be provided in accordance with an individual’s gender identity.

For example, a CoC’s CE prioritization determination may not be based on whether an individual has a disability, or a specific type of disability or diagnosis, or another protected characteristic. It must be based on an individual’s vulnerability or need level according to the specific and definable set of prioritization criteria. HUD understands that a person’s vulnerability or need level may be impacted by their lived experience of having a disability, and to the extent that a person’s disability has impacted their vulnerability or need level, the prioritization process may consider those factors, but it would not be appropriate for a Coordinated Entry staff person to assume a person has a particular need based solely on their protected characteristics.  For example, frequency of hospitalizations, difficulties that would limit the type of housing one could access or make it hard to live independently, barriers to securing or maintaining stable employment, needed services, etc., would be appropriate to consider in assessing someone’s vulnerability or need level. Accordingly, it is important that the assessment process captures this type of information about one’s level of need. However, it would not be appropriate to assume, for example, that someone with a physical disability has greater needs or is more vulnerable than persons with a different type of disability. Likewise, it would be inappropriate for an intake or assessment staff person to make generalizations or assumptions that a person with a specific type of disability or illness would prefer to live in a particular setting, or that the person would be unsuccessful or unable to live in a particular setting. Therefore, in assessing a person’s vulnerability or need level, it would be inappropriate to “score” or produce a vulnerability or need “result” based on a disability diagnosis since a diagnosis itself does not indicate how that disability is impacting an individual’s ability to maintain housing or end their current homeless crisis.

It is not appropriate to make presumptions about a person’s needs, without facts regarding actual vulnerability. Assessment and prioritization must be based on an individual’s vulnerability or need level according to the specific and definable set of nondiscriminatory prioritization criteria.

Please refer to Notice CPD-17-01 II.B.11 and III.A for more information about participant autonomy and person-centered approaches to all parts of the Coordinated Entry process.

Tags: CoC Program Requirements - Coordinated Entry

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