When you’re homeless, the first step to getting connected with housing often includes using your county’s Coordinated Entry services. But what is Coordinated Entry?
Coordinated Entry is a centralized process designed to coordinate program participant intake, assessment, and provision of referrals to various services including housing, financial, employment, and health services. In short, Coordinated Entry is designed to ensure all people experiencing homelessness have equal opportunity to find access to housing and assistance programs in their county. At Guild, our Coordinated Entry Navigators help clients prepare to work with Coordinated Entry to get housing. We asked Coordinated Entry Navigator Paul all about Coordinated Entry and how it works for individuals experiencing homelessness.
Q: For people who might not be familiar with homeless/housing services, how would you describe Coordinated Entry? How does it work?
Paul: Coordinated Entry is a housing support service orchestrated through the funding county and looks to connect those who are at the top of the priority list into a stable housing opportunity.
We, as Coordinated Entry Navigators, work alongside these counties within the Twin Cities Metro region and receive our referrals from those counties. When we are given the names of the identified clients, we look to locate them within the area and determine their willingness, ability, and desire to work with our services in addition to the county in order to receive a stable housing opportunity.
As a Navigator, part of our process is to determine the client’s baseline in a variety of areas such as having the necessary documents needed for identification, their current living situation, sources of monthly income, preferences in regard to housing and location, barriers to placement, interest in additional mental health services, and other areas of their lives that are currently underserved or other areas in which they deem to have and need the necessary support.
Based on these factors and when the necessary checkpoints have been cleared, especially identifying elements such as a valid ID, Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, navigation of barriers such as criminal records and issues with previous landlords, their names are given back to the corresponding county.
After a period of time, the county communicates with the Navigator to provide a stable housing opportunity. If all parties are agreed upon, then the process moves forwards toward application and acceptance. If there are hurdles that are experienced during this time, the Navigator works with both the client and the county to determine the source of the issue holding up the process and ways in which the issues can be resolved, and things can move forward. If there is a hold up and barriers in place that make this process and lumbered, the Navigator works with the client to potentially self-resolve the matter of housing.
Then, and if, the housing opportunity has been achieved by the client, the Navigator works with the client to successfully transition into this new opportunity. And, after a period of time of transition, if the client has done so in a positive and forward-focused manner, then the client’s case is closed by the Coordinated Entry Navigator and their name is returned back to the county and we are given a new client to support in the same process. Referral amounts vary by county and range typically from 20-25 persons per Navigator.
Q: Why are Guild’s Coordinated Entry Navigation Services (CENS) necessary?
Paul: We as a team deem this a necessary service because the process of connecting people towards a stable housing opportunity can be a daunting and discouraging process for some, especially for those that deal with a mental health and substance abuse disorder on a daily basis.
The clients that we serve may have been exposed to years of abuse and neglect and this may have stunted their ability to perform the task of acquiring a stable housing opportunity. It is our privilege and duty as mental health workers through Guild to be a stable and steady influence through this process and support those who may represent an underserved and sometimes unobserved section of our community.
We also look to provide them a positive example of working alongside agencies that are sometimes inflexible and stoic in the face of dealing with the task of not only locating but also advancing into a safe and stable housing placement within the community setting.
Q: What are some of the most common barriers individuals face to getting and keeping housing?
Paul: This is a simple yet infinitely complex question. At the very top, there are barriers such as a client’s criminal record and previous issues experienced with previous landlords that may limit the opportunity and ability for a client to receive placement. There are also barriers based on the client’s physical health that may limit opportunities. A client’s mental health may play a large role as well in their ability to obtain and maintain a stable housing opportunity both in the past as well as the present. The chemical health of a client also plays an integral role in their ability to benefit from stable housing. And in terms of monthly income, this is yet another complex layer in determining what options for stable housing are available.
For example, a client may make $762 a month on SSI as well as $203 for GA (General Assistance). The county may provide them an opportunity for housing which meets their needs, but they are required to provide 30% of their monthly income as part of a subsidized apartment. The client may reject this offer on the fact of giving 30% of their monthly income alone. But there may be issues or factors that muddle this situation further based on their criminal record, chemical health, physical health, mental health, and the willingness to gauge in programs or activities that would look to improve their current outlooks. And all that is written above assumes that the county and other supporting agencies are working in a fashion that allows them to be open and willing to provide the client with some accommodations given the subjective nature of this experience.
All the while we attempt to help clients navigate through this experience in a way in which ultimately provides them stable housing. To be transparent, this is not always the case.
This does not stop us from trying. Sometimes in the process, we lose contact with a client via one reason or another and are not able to provide them the opportunities they not only desire but that are needed. Sometimes the agencies we work alongside are unable to provide the client the opportunity that was initially offered. Sometimes the client rejects multiple offers from the county and that kicks in its own set of consequences.
We work as hard as we can in a manner that is non-judgmental, person-centered, and works to help restore dignity and hope to the outlook of the client as they seek to navigate this topsy turvy world as we all do in our day-to-day occurrences.
Helping Individuals Get Housed
Clients get referred to our Coordinated Entry Navigation Services through Ramsey, Hennepin, Dakota, Carver, Scott, Anoka, and Washington counties. To get started with Coordinated Entry in your county, click here.
Interested in supporting our services? Donate now!