Coordinated efforts to help fight homelessness in region
In an effort to help fight homelessness, Jason D. Alexander, principal and co-founder of Capacity for Change LLC, gave a presentation about Coordinated Entry for Homeless Services at the YWCA in Williamsport on Wednesday.
Alexander, also a member of the Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry Committee, discussed how a coordinated system set up for Lehigh Valley has helped the region in coordinated efforts to join together to fight homelessness.
As the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, has mandated that a coordinated system be in place for those in the state to continue to receive HUD funds by 2018, a coordinated system has to be in place that includes 24/7 live access for consumers; access to street outreach, prevention and emergency services; people in need of assistance ranked in order of priority; annual coordinated entry trainings; and cultural and linguistic competencies.
Alexander said that HUD issued the notice in January 2017, and these efforts are now being made to make sure the area stays up to date.
Currently, there are places, such as the YWCA and other shelters, that offer help to the homeless during business hours but are not necessarily part of a coordinated system that works together.
“We’ll be replicating what we already started in Lehigh Valley, but we’ll be tailoring it to meet the needs and service providers in this region,” Alexander said.
Since Alexander was on the team that implemented such a system in Lehigh Valley, he started the process by explaining first steps for how it can be done in the Northern Tier, where the Williamsport Area will be located in a coordinated system. The Northern Tier section includes Bradford, Clinton, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga and Wyoming counties.
The idea is to combine all services available to work together for the common goal of helping individuals out of homelessness.
“Coordinated entry allows for a coordinated exit, which means the entire community is working together to help any family or individual experiencing homelessness to exit into permanent housing with stability as quickly and effectively as possible,” Alexander said.
He said that the goal is to use a Housing First approach.
“A Housing First approach means that we don’t want people to be in the system any longer than they need to be. We want them in the community as quickly as possible, and then connect them to all the community services they need to remain housed in a stable way,” he said.
The coordinated entry model has three long term goals.
“What we look for is: are we reducing the number of people that are homeless? Are we moving people in and out of the system faster than before? Are people not returning to homelessness at lower rates, in other words, are less people returning to homelessness more than once?” Alexander said. “If those three things are happening, we think coordinated entry is a big part of that success.”
In order to start the process of coordination, a survey was sent out to the various services currently in place for staff to fill out when working with homeless individuals in order to gain statistics and data for what the area is currently facing in order to identify problems and area specific needs.
“From there, we’re going to identify partners that are going to deliver the services,” he said. “We need a call center service that’s a toll-free number anywhere in the region. We need at least one designated provider in the community where people can walk in and talk to someone.”
He said the phone number availability is key for there to be a number to call at any time.
“If you’re homeless, you could always talk to someone,” Alexander said. “They may not be able to help you right then, but they should never feel like there’s no one there to help them.”
The survey is scheduled to finish in the area by May 7.
For more information on the process, visit www.pennsylvaniacoc.org.