26th April
written by Kim Walker

Last month, the Center for Capacity Building brought you the Coordinated Assessment Toolkit to help you design, implement, and evaluate an efficient coordinated process at the front door of your system. But, as many successful communities and a few Alliance staff members will tell you, the best coordinated assessment processes incorporate prevention and diversion at their assessment points by screening for eligibility for these strategies and providing the associated services before admitting a household to a shelter, transitional housing, or rapid re-housing program.

This initial screening process can help people salvage housing situations without having to enter shelter, or provide viable temporary housing options outside shelter. Prevention and diversion, in many cases, do not require a major investment of money or resources (and in some cases, as we often hear, require no financial assistance at all), and are therefore quite cost effective compared to an avoidable shelter entry, even more so when you consider that prevention means avoiding robbing another person of a bed that they desperately need.

That’s why we published our Prevention and Diversion Toolkit yesterday, which we hope communities will use in tandem with the Coordinated Assessment one to develop the most comprehensive and effective front door process they can. As with the Coordinated Assessment Toolkit, we’ll be updating this over time as we learn more and gather more information. The reason we’re able to bring you these resources is that we are able to learn from and connect with communities across the country, so please continue to send us things! We take questions, comments, and feedback as well – please send any of the above to Please keep learning and sharing with us!

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20th April
written by Norm Suchar

We trade a lot of ideas and information with our Canadian partners. One thing the Calgary Homeless Foundation recently shared with us is a case management accreditation process that they’ve developed. I know of a few other communities that have developed case management standards, but nothing quite this detailed. You can download the PDF here.

The first part deals with the accreditation process, so you may want to skip to page 59 where the case management Standards of Practice section begins. If you have similar documents or manuals to share with us, please email them to us at

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18th April
written by Anna Blasco

Kim Walker Presenting at a Performance Improvement ClinicOver the past year, the Alliance has been presenting an intensive one-and-a-half day clinic to help communities prepare for changes made by the HEARTH Act. The clinic focuses on improving community performance by analyzing community data and shifting to strategies that better achieve the HEARTH Act’s performance expectations.

We will continue to offer these clinics, although we’re changing the name to the Performance Improvement Clinic (we used to call them HEARTH Implementation Clinics). The name change reflects the fact that the clinic mostly focuses on the performance aspects of the HEARTH Act and also to distinguish it from the many other types of HEARTH Act assistance that will be available from HUD and other organizations over the coming months.

The Performance Improvement Clinic will continue to include group discussions, system design and modification planning sessions, and presentations on best practices. Clinic participants will also receive hands-on technical assistance with data analysis and system assessment in preparation for the Clinic and follow-up support. While the overall goals and structure of the clinic are the same, it is constantly updated with new information and customized to the conditions in each community.

On our weekly blog series, Field Notes, we have talked about the experiences of Alameda County and Whatcom County with the clinics, and the work they are doing to improve their homelessness assistance system as a community. In the next few weeks we will continue to bring you their stories and lessons learned, as well as the voices of our staff and consultants who have conducted clinics. For more information about the Performance Improvement Clinics in the meantime, please email the Center for Capacity Building at

11th April
written by Norm Suchar

The Center of Capacity Building is always looking for data about successful efforts to reduce homelessness, and here’s one from Richmond, Virginia. Homeward, an organization that works to prevent and end homelessness in the Richmond area, has been working on incorporating rapid re-housing into Richmond’s homeless assistance for several years. In early 2010, they started a rapid re-housing initiative with many private and public partners that re-housed 30 families over the course of a year that significantly reduced the average length of time families were homeless. This summary comes by way of Homeward’s Erika Jones-Haskins:

With the 2009 Community Foundation grant of $100,000, we invested approximately $80,000 in short-term rental and other financial assistance for families. The remaining $20,000 was used to pay for Homeward’s introduction of this concept to our public and private providers, the development of revised intake processes and case management procedures and data collection and outcomes measurement.

Here are the highlights:

  • 30 families with a total of 97 individuals were served.
  • The average cost per family was $2,666, compared to approximately $3,900 for a month of shelter for a mother with 2 children.
  • For the 20 families we were able to track, the median length of homelessness was 25.5 days. This is a significant decrease from our community median length of homelessness for families at 45 days. (Which is, again, a 50% decrease from the 2009 median length of family homelessness of 90 days!)

This is especially relevant, given that reducing the length of homeless episodes is one of the new measures that communities will be working to achieve as part of the HEARTH Act. By the looks of it, Richmond is off to a strong start.

Image courtesy of  taberandrew.

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4th April
written by Kim Walker

Last week, we released our Coordinated Assessment/Coordinated Entry Toolkit. In it, we provide tools to help communities plan, implement, and evaluate a coordinated entry system. We’re going to continue to build on the toolkit, adding to it and updating it as new information comes in. And remember – we want you to be a part of that, so keep sending suggestions and feedback to me at

The reason we’re excited about this tool is that we know that coordinated assessment is something that gets results. The perfect example of this is in Dayton/Montgomery County, OH. Though they switched over to a coordinated assessment approach somewhat recently – August 2010 – they have already seen major results. These are just a few of them:

  • 18% of families over the past 7 months have been diverted from entering shelter. The vast majority of these families are being diverted without receiving any financial assistance – many of them are able to secure housing outside of shelter with the help of a case manager mediating on their behalf.
  • Emergency shelters that had up to 40 families a night last summer now have 7 families per night.
  • There were 12% fewer families who had a night of shelter in 2011 than in 2010.

We’ve seen similar results in other communities that are adopting this approach. By using a consistent assessment and referral process with a permanent housing focus, people are entering the system less, moving around within it less, and getting to the program that is best fit to serve and re-house them more quickly. And it’s not just communities that are seeing results – consumers have also reported that the coordinated assessment approach makes things much easier for them, too. Our promise to is that we’ll keep giving you news about interventions that, based on data, are effective for preventing and ending homelessness as long as you keep sharing your successes with us!

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28th March
written by Kim Walker

Yesterday, we released our Coordinated Assessment Toolkit (also known as our Coordinated Entry/Coordinated Intake Toolkit)! It’s been a labor of love for the Center for Capacity Building, and we’re very excited to have it out on the website at last.

But…it’s not finished.

Don’t get us wrong – there’s lots of great stuff in there already. The toolkit has four sections: Planning and Assessment, Data and Implementation, Evaluation, and Community Examples and Materials. The Planning and Assessment section has materials to help get you started in thinking about what coordinated assessment is and how it could look and function in your community. Data and Implementation gives you some information on how to collect and share data in an effective way when doing intakes and assessments and making referrals. Evaluation is all about measuring and continuing your success. The Community Examples section provides materials from communities that have done this already and information on how they’ve made everything work.

But we need, and want, more. We know there a lot of communities that have started to plan for and implement this approach, and we want to share your products and lessons learned with everyone else. Send us your checklists, assessment and intake forms, policy and procedure documents, and data reports. And send us your suggestions and feedback as well. Specific information about including domestic violence survivors and youth is also coming but we would like input in these areas as well.

Just like with any other practice or intervention we use at work, the toolkit will grow and evolve. We hope you’ll keep checking in to make sure you’re getting the latest and greatest. And keep your eyes peeled for our companion toolkit on prevention and shelter diversion!


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21st March
written by Norm Suchar

And while we’re on the subject of Alameda County, one of their jurisdictions, the City of Berkeley, was kind enough to share their Substantial Amendment for ESG. [include link to document]. The document was created by the City of Berkeley and EveryOne Home, working jointly with other jurisdictions in Alameda County to develop a coordinated ESG response. They have about $81,000 to spend on their Priority Home initiative, and plan on rapidly re-housing 31 households and preventing homelessness for 5 households. I’ve excerpted sections on program design and performance measures to give a sense of how they are implementing the program, but you can check out the link for the whole thing.

Here’s part of the program design section:

Priority Home is designed on a “progressive engagement” model, intended to provide as little support as needed to divert or re-house households quickly and reserve resources as much as possible for other households, while leaving the door open for increased assistance if needed… [H]ousehold’s entering will receive either  1) deposit only 2) a full or partial  deposit and one month rent, intended for household’s with a source of income, employment or disability or retirement benefits, sufficient to cover rent after re-housing but with need for initial support to securely transition to housing, 3) full or partial  deposit and a short-term subsidy to temporarily bridge the income gap, typically restricted to six months but with  extensions permitted with authority approval; 4) services only to locate suitable housing with no or low rent. Households entering at one level needing more assistance can be transferred to a higher level or out of the program to more intensive supports.

And here’s part of the performance section:

The City of Berkeley participates in the EveryOne Home “Measuring Success and Reporting Outcomes” initiative which has established performance measures and benchmarks for all components of the homeless service system. All providers in the Priority Home Partnership will be contractually expected to meet or exceed performance Standards.

- Targeting  those who need the assistance most:  In designing Priority Home, the community has developed Targeting criteria to maximize the chances that assistance is given to those who are already homeless or most likely to become so. As all agencies must be agreed to this targeting structure to participate, this performance measure will be monitored at a program-wide level through review of HMIS data and as a compliance measure during provider monitorings.

- Reducing the number of people living on streets and in emergency shelters: Approximately 76% of those anticipated to be served in the ESG funded portion of priority Home will be homeless upon entry. The other 24% are expected to be very likely to occupy a shelter bed if it assisted. Through review of HMIS data, Priority Home will track where people enter the program from, and EveryOne Home will compare this information to point in time count data collected annually. Because the demand for shelter currently far outstrips the resources, we do not anticipate immediate reductions in those sheltered but do anticipate increased turnover in shelter beds, allowing for more people to be sheltered instead of unsheltered.

-Shortening the time people spend homeless: a primary goal of the EveryOne Home performance Standards is reducing lengths of stay in homelessness. Rapid rehousing is expected to occur within 45 days of homelessness, and prevention assistance within 14 days for households who are not moving, and 45 days, for households who are.

- Ensuring assistance provided is effective at reducing barriers: the greatest barrier to housing for most clients is lack of income. Two performance standards for programs in Alameda County address this barrier; 1) percent of households leaving with employment income and 2) percent of households entering with no income that leave with an income.  

Another demonstration of effectively having reduced housing barriers is whether people assisted later return to the system as homeless. Alameda County has a system wide goal that less than 10% of households assisted return to the homeless system within 12 months.

Good stuff!

You can find a copy of the Berkeley ESG Plan Amendment on our website.

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21st March
written by Anna Blasco

We at the Alliance spend a lot of time training communities to prepare for the HEARTH Act. We work with communities to assess performance, revamp governance structures, and facilitate community planning. What we have found may not surprise you – changing the way homelessness assistance systems work is not an easy task. Most difficult is moving beyond action plans and hypotheticals to actual, concrete changes that make a difference in how quickly and effectively programs move people into permanent housing. Last week I discussed Alameda County CA’s prizes for high performing programs. Today I look at their recently announced “EveryOne Housed Academy.”

This is how the “EveryOne Housed Academy” will work: programs send a team including executive management, middle level management, and front line staff for a two day training that enables each team to translate best practices such as housing first, harm reduction, and trauma informed services into policies and procedures that will work in their programs to permanently house people more quickly. Teams will have the opportunity to evaluate everything about their operations, including signage in program spaces, shelter rules, case management approaches, job descriptions, etc., and they will leave the Academy with rewritten policies and a plan of action.

The EveryOne Housed Academy is being developed by an eight-person design team that includes providers, consumers, funders and EveryOne Home staff.  Programs will have to apply for the Academy, with priority going to programs that serve the largest numbers.  They hope to hold the first Academy in June, the second in September and eventually work with ten different agencies.

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14th March
written by Anna Blasco

The HEARTH Act will significantly change the way the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds homelessness assistance. Communities will be expected to work towards the federal goal that no one remains homeless for longer than 30 days. Additionally, performance on new outcomes will be measured, including reducing lengths of homeless episodes, and reducing new and returning entries into homelessness.

How can your community encourage homelessness programs to perform better on these outcomes? I recently spoke with Elaine de Coligny, Executive Director of EveryOne Home in Alameda, on the unique incentive they have devised – a prize.

EveryOne Home, a community-based nonprofit that coordinates Alameda County, California’s plan to end homelessness, has recently announced the 2012 Outcomes Achievement Awards. Programs that make the most progress on key community-wide outcomes will now be rewarded with one of two prizes.

The idea for the awards came to Elaine during a Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) the Alliance held with Alameda County stakeholders in June of last year.  She then approached a funder EveryOne Home had a previous relationship with, the Y&H Soda Foundation, about the idea. Elaine says the Y&H Soda Foundation was excited to support the initiative, and generously funded two achievement awards.  The first award for $10,000 will be given to the highest achieving program, and the second for $5,000 will be given to the most improved program.  Awards will be made to programs that have the highest rate of exits out of homelessness to permanent housing in the shortest time from program entry.

One of the most exciting aspects of the award is that programs do not need to fill out a single application form.  The outcome data used to determine the achievement of programs will come directly from the information they enter into HMIS.  This way, programs can concentrate on moving people to permanent housing rather than filling out paperwork.  This is possible because of the work Alameda County has done to make their HMIS system generate reports and data that they can use strategically to measure success on key outcomes.

Elaine hopes that these awards, which will be given out in early 2013, will energize the approximately 50 programs in Alameda County eligible for the awards to improve their outcomes.  If so, she says, there may be more awards available in the future.

7th March
written by Anna Blasco

Last week I discussed how Whatcom County, Washington, is preparing for the HEARTH Act by launching a coordinated entry system. The HEARTH Act aims to streamline and modernize the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and help communities create more efficient, more effective homeless assistance systems.

Whatcom County is one community taking a few steps to move in that direction. (Go Whatcom County!)

In addition to implementing a coordinated entry system, the county is also working on a prevention targeting and diversion initiative. They’re modeling theirs after one currently in existence in Hennepin County, MN (a model the Alliance has highlighted) and the goal is of the initiative is to better target their homeless prevention resources to people most likely to become homeless.

Not only that, Whatcom County hosted one of the Alliance’s Performance Improvement Clinics (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) last year and based on what they learned, the county has added diversion assistance to their menu of homeless interventions. Diversion is a strategy that redirects people seeking shelter and helps them identify immediate, alternate housing arrangements. If necessary, diversion assistance also connects these people and families with services and financial assistance to help them return to permanent housing. Case management staff had already been providing diversion assistance informally for some time in Whatcom County, but the new diversion process has become formal and deliberate. Case managers are now trained to see friends and family members of a household as “informal landlords.”

I asked Greg Winter of the Whatcom Homeless Service Center to discuss his experience with the Alliance’s Performance Improvement Clinic and specifically, I asked him a question we receive often from communities interesting holding their own Performance Improvement Clinic: who should we invite?

Greg encouraged communities to seek a representative sample of the types of homelessness programs in their communities. Additionally, he felt that having the local housing authority, local governmental officials, or whoever is in charge of funding housing programs in the community. Whatcom also has a history of strong collaboration between housing providers and domestic violence providers, and he felt that their participation in the Performance Improvement Clinic was very important.

This makes sense. In order for interventions like coordinated entry, diversion, and prevention to be effective and efficient, the whole homeless assistance system has to be on board.  The best way to have a significant, positive impact on people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness is to provide deliberate, concerted service as one cooperative community.

The Alliance is working with communities like Whatcom County across the country. Learn more about homeless assistance strategies and holding a Performance Improvement Clinics of your own on our website.