Spokane Tests Improvements to Coordinated Entry

Now that all Anchor Communities are on a path to achieve quality, real-time data, communities have started testing new strategies to reduce homelessness. In Spokane, the community’s Coordinated Entry Diversion Workgroup and Youth Advisory Board (YAB) are collaborating to test simple changes to the Coordinated Entry process and measure their impact on reducing homelessness.

Coordinated Entry is the first interaction a young person has with a service provider regarding their housing crisis. Service providers ask a series of questions to assess a young people’s needs and determine how to best connect them with resources. However, the team observed that the next steps after Coordinated Entry were unclear to many young people, and as a result many never had a second contact with a service provider. After 90 days of no contact, a young person’s status is moved to “inactive,” and if they are still experiencing a housing crisis, they would need to complete the Coordinated Entry assessment again.

YAB members suggested that the problem may be that young people leave the Coordinated Entry process without a clear understanding of what next steps to expect. They suggested testing a simple new tool: The Coordinated Entry Next Step Form. The form is a tangible resource young people can take with them, listing the date when the Coordinated Entry assessment was conducted, the date 90 days later when it will expire, a contact person that they can reach with questions or access support, and general information around possible next steps and things to work on while they wait to hear back from service providers.

“This project is so important because so many of the youth and young adults who meet with someone for a Coordinated Entry appointment leave feeling confused and unsure what should be happening next,” said Julius Henrichsen, Youth Homelessness Coordinator at Volunteers of America. “Youth input got this project started, and we’ve received incredibly valuable feedback on how this should look directly from youth experts.”

Outreach staff in Volunteer of America’s YouthReach program and SNAP began using the Coordinated Entry Next Step Form in mid-July. After two weeks, the team reconvened to evaluate results. During that time, 11 heads of household under 25 went through a Coordinated Entry assessment. Of that group, only one person qualified to receive the Coordinated Entry Next Step Form, since it was specifically formulated for unaccompanied young people experiencing homelessness. The team concluded that a longer, 90-day testing period will be required to truly measure results, reviewing progress every two weeks.

This project exemplifies many of Anchor Community Initiative’s core values:

  • Youth leadership. The idea for the project came directly from young people. YAB members reflected on their own experiences with Coordinated Entry and identified improvements to boost its effectiveness. They also shaped the creation of the form and provided insight on what would work best for young people. For instance, the form is printed on a half-sheet that young people can fold and easily fit in a pocket, for easy portability and to keep the information on the form private. “We felt it was important to understand youth perspective and hear feedback on where there has been confusion before in the process to secure stable housing,” said Amy Johnson, Housing Specialist at SNAP. “We wanted to make this resource a user-friendly, pocket sized document that clearly identified next steps.”
  • Data-driven. The team identified a clear metric to evaluate the project: Tracking the number of young people whose status changes to inactive. If this number goes down after adopting the Coordinated Entry Next Step Form, the community has a clear indication that providing more information during the early stages of the Coordinated Entry process has a positive impact.
  • Following improvement science principles. These principles guide communities to test changes that are small and measurable. This way, communities can quickly implement changes and determine if the changes made an impact on homelessness numbers. Then, communities can iterate and build on changes that have proven effective.

We are eager to see Anchor Communities test more strategies and learn what sorts of changes lead to reductions in homelessness!