Posts Tagged ‘Center for Capacity Building’

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.

Comments Off
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!


Comments Off
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.

29th February
written by Anna Blasco

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Greg Winter of Whatcom County, Washington about how his community is preparing for the HEARTH Act. Because I discussed using an existing 211 service to start a coordinated entry system in your community last week, I wanted to contrast Whatcom’s coordinated entry process.

Whatcom has been developing a coordinated entry system since 2008, when they formed the Homeless Service Center at the Opportunity Council, the local community action agency. There, they established a coordinated entry system with five service providers in the county. The community was familiar with going to the Opportunity Council’s resource center for help, so running the coordinated entry system out of this single, physical location was a good fit for Whatcom. Additionally, other people in the community are trained to complete the intake process, including a street outreach team run by a local volunteer organization, social workers based in a local hospital, and some staff in the local jail.

In 2011 the Alliance held a  Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) with Whatcom, which encouraged them to further develop their coordinated entry system.  Data sharing agreements were signed with providers to allow better coordination between agencies. They adopted a philosophy of services based on vulnerability, rather than first-come first-served. Some organizations that participate in the coordinated entry system no longer run their own waiting lists. Instead, the Homeless Service Center keeps one central “housing interest pool.” Providers have found that this lessens their administrative burden, and helps them concentrate on their housing focused services. Finally, Whatcom adopted Hennepin County, Minnesota’s prevention targeting tool (more on this next week).

The next step for Whatcom is to continue adding service providers in a gradual and deliberate way to their coordinated entry system, and to continue evaluating and improving their system.

Stephanie Reinauer from the Whatcom Homeless Service Center, recently gave a presentation at our February conference on becoming a coordinated homelessness assistance system. Find the slides from her presentation on our website. For more information on Coordinated Entry, read our brief “One Way In: The Advantages of Introducing System- Wide Coordinated Entry for Homeless Families.”

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

22nd February
written by Anna Blasco

In many communities, the best way to find help if you are experiencing a housing crisis is to start with a long list of phone numbers. You start from the top, and hope that you fit the requirements, that they have enough resources to serve you, that they are open on Tuesdays. It is exhausting work for the household and an inefficient use of resources for the providers.

Some communities have moved to centralize the process households use to access services. This is called coordinated entry, and it has many advantages, like improving the efficiency of a community’s homelessness assistance system and improving its ability to perform well on HEARTH Act outcomes. Additionally, in the interim rules for the new Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, HUD explains that it will include in an upcoming rule for the Continuum of Care program, a requirement for communities to develop and implement a coordinated entry system.

As guest blogger Iain DeJong mentioned last week, the Center for Capacity Building at the Alliance held a training during our February conference on Coordinated Entry, the materials from which are now online. During the training, a number of communities had questions about training 211 operators in their communities to handle intake, assessment, and referrals to services. This may be a good model for larger communities, or those without transit systems that make it possible for households to travel to a centralized location.

Alameda County in California is one example of a community that has used their 211 line as a part of a decentralized coordinated intake. People experiencing a housing crisis can call 211 for help, which conducts an initial screening before referring a person to one of eight Housing Resource Centers (HRCs) that can provide prevention, rapid re-housing, and other services. All HRCs use the same assessment tool, data collection methods, and targeting strategy for financial assistance, case management, prevention, rapid re-housing, and other housing services. Staff from the HRCs meet monthly for in-person meetings and also communicate online.

The slides from the coordinated entry training can be found on our website, as well as our brief about coordinated entry, “One Way In: The Advantages of Introducing System- Wide Coordinated Entry for Homeless Families.”

Is your community looking at implementing a coordinated entry system? Let us know in the comments!

Comments Off
15th February
written by Anna Blasco

Yesterday, the Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2013 Budget Proposal. The proposal included increases in funding for some programs that are key to ending homelessness for veterans. One of these, the the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program, would increase from $224 million to $235 million. Currently, GPD assistance is limited to transitional housing and services. VA is planning to propose legislation that would allow GPD grantees and subgrantees to utilize a ―transition in place model and provide permanent housing. Below is an interview with Ian Lisman, Program and Policy Analyst at the Alliance, about these proposed changes to the GPD program. More resources on the President’s Budget and what this means for homelessness assistance programs can be found on the our website.

Comments Off
8th February
written by Anna Blasco

Last week we showed you an interview with Kay from our Center for Capacity Building about the new Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program.  The Alliance has been investigating how the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) and other initiatives were implemented in numerous communities. We recently published a brief distilling these findings into six recommendations for implementing the new ESG program.

This week we focus on two of these recommendations, which were to prioritize rapid re-housing, and target prevention assistance to people who are most likely to become homeless.

1st February
written by Anna Blasco

In response to some questions we have received recently regarding new regulations for the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, the Center for Capacity Building at the Alliance has decided to address some of these questions in video form. Today’s video features Kay Moshier McDivitt, Capacity Building Associate here at the Alliance. In this interview, Kay discusses how communities can rethink sustainability as an eligibility requirement for rapid re-housing and prevention assistance.

(In the video, Kay refers to a webinar – this is the webinar.)

For more information, you can visit our website, where the Alliance has recently posted a wealth of material on the new ESG program.

18th January
written by naehblog

Our new Capacity Building Associate, Kay Moshier McDivitt, joins the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building with a strong background in community planning and programming to prevent and end homelessness. Throughout her career, she has worked to develop systems change and implement best practices specific to vulnerable populations. Kay was an early advocate for the Housing First approach, pioneering the “Shelter to Independent Living Program,” a best practices model of rapid re-housing.

Building on her community experience with the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness developing systems change and shifting the local community direction to a system of prevention, diversion, and rapid re-housing, Kay has provided consultation and technical assistance to a number of communities in ten year plan development and systems change. Kay passionately believes that ending homelessness is possible and has committed her professional career to helping communities find the tools and strategies to accomplish this goal.

The Lancaster, PA resident enjoys travel (including her commute to the Alliance office), spending time with her family, and Saturday morning breakfast with friends.