Coordinated Connections

Attendees of CSH Summit 2016 are actively sharing new ideas for moving supportive housing forward by extending its reach and impact. One of the hottest topics is strengthening connections between housing providers and hospitals and larger healthcare systems, clinics, managed care organizations, mental health, substance use treatment programs, nursing homes, I/DD organizations, child-welfare departments, workforce development and many other public services and agencies.

Affordable, supportive housing is a platform from which the most vulnerable people in our society access many of these programs, but our focus goes deeper than the needs of these residents. Individuals and families most appropriate for supportive housing come into contact with some of these services throughout their lives.

What we have learned through extensive data and our experience working with vulnerable people, including people in homelessness for years, is that although they rely on these various services and programs, the attention and care they receive is not coordinated or effective so they are left no better off in the long run than when they initially sought help.

This creates a dynamic where a person or family in need of comprehensive evaluations and supports falls through the cracks because the attention they receive is uneven and may not get to the root of the challenges or remove the obstacles standing in the way of their progress. They can be shuttled from one agency or program to another with no real change in their condition. What we are hearing from professionals representing housing, healthcare and other public systems is that we must wrap our arms around coordinating the identification of - and access, services delivery and assistance for - vulnerable people if we are ever to realize an end to homelessness.

Connecting people to the right housing and the correct services that will produce results requires proper assessment involving all of the agencies and entities interacting with the individual or family in trouble. The best choice of housing options comes from an informed person-centered and/or family-centered approach. The same is true for services.

If a community does not have coordinated access, assessment and delivery, people in need are shuttled around and there is little if any ability to track their progress or lack thereof.

Coordination and cooperation among the various services and agencies provides vulnerable people with the connections that will improve their lives. Communities should think of it as establishing a centralized inventory system that effectively and efficiently identifies and uses resources and continuously. It's the best way to find out what is working and what is not.