Field Notes: The Systems Perspective

written by Kim Walker
February 12, 2013

So far in our series on how programs can best implement the HEARTH Act, we’ve talked about the importance of a permanent housing focus and performance measurement. Today we explore another important aspect: collaboration.

While providers will need to make changes to their individual programs to improve performance, one of the biggest shifts under the HEARTH Act is the need for a focus on the system. Providers will need to work together and with other stakeholders to create one effective homeless assistance system.

Cooperation between providers in system-wide endeavors such as coordinated assessment can lead to greater efficiency and a homeless assistance system better equipped to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness.

Is your program collaborating well with other providers and CoC leadership and contributing to a stronger homeless assistance system? Here are some key questions to ask yourself:

  • Do we participate in a coordinated assessment process? Coordinated assessment, which is now mandatory for HUD grantees, allows the system, rather than the interests of individual programs, to determine which program is the best fit for each household based on the household’s need and information on how each intervention works most effectively. For help on coordinated assessment, see our Coordinated Assessment Toolkit (which includes a new assessment and referral tool) and the USICH Toolkit on Retooling Crisis Response Systems.
  • Do we provide accurate data to our HMIS and CoC leads, CoC board, and other providers that show how well our program is performing? Sharing data creates transparency about the strengths and weaknesses within the system and can help providers acquire the help they need to improve their performance if necessary. If every provider is not sharing data or participating in HMIS, crucial information about how consumers are using the system and how it is performing will be missing when the time comes to make important decisions about the system’s future.
  • Do we participate in system-wide discussions on performance and best practice strategies for different programs, program types, and the system as a whole? Across the country, homeless assistance systems are determining how their systems will look moving forward. They are optimizing their systems to meet HEARTH outcomes and making important decisions about what kinds of programs they will need more or less of in the future. Programs should be at the table for this discussion, sharing ideas and information about their consumers with fellow providers. This will pave the way for future and more efficient collaborations.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog on consumer involvement!