Field Notes: Using 211 for Coordinated Entry

written by Anna Blasco
February 22, 2012

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!