Advocates in Tarrant County conduct a head-count of local neighbors experiencing homelessness each January. The results for 2016 found a 3.7 percent rise in Tarrant and Parker counties, including 334 children under the age of 18. In July, agencies from across North Texas convened for a series of workshops aimed at enhancing the Coordinated Assessment System – a process in place to help citizens in greater Fort Worth get from the point of crisis to a place of housing.
“The Coordinated Assessment System provides a framework that looks at the severity of service needs by an individual,” said Otis Thornton, Executive Director of Tarrant County Homeless Coalition (TCHC). “It allows us to focus on those in greatest jeopardy based on factors such as health or victimization. The assessment system lets us determine who is in greatest need and who can resolve homelessness under their own power.”
TCHC, which serves as the HUD-recognized lead agency in greater Fort Worth for the homelessness Continuum of Care, conducted the Coordinated Assessment System Re-design Workshops.
These interactive 2-day work sessions were conducted to brainstorm and make policy recommendations to ensure the most effective and consistent assessment process, regardless of the location where a person experiencing homelessness presents to the system. Attendees at the re-design workshops critically reviewed housing eligibility, prioritization, and entry pathways. They also focused on identifying a set of prescribed metrics – performance measures – that matter to the service providers in this region.
“When it comes to addressing homelessness, we don’t want to duplicate services or cause clients an unnecessary run-around,” said Thornton. “Our goal is to revise the process and ensure it’s as consistent as possible.”
An out-of-date tool that uses separate forms for individuals, families and youth currently hinders collaboration among organizations that currently serve greater Fort Worth’s homeless citizens. Soon, that should change.
TCHC recently received funding from HUD to expand and enhance the region’s Coordinated Assessment System, with a goal launch date of September 1. Funds will be used to update the individual assessment form and align it with the form used for evaluating families. It will also allow the documentation to be entered into the system electronically and shared across agencies. The re-design workshops hosted by Tarrant County Homeless Coalition lay a foundation for the pending system improvements.
With the workshops complete, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition now turns its attention to raising additional financial resources. HUD requires a 25 percent match for the funds it allocated toward expansion the local Coordinated Assessment System. TCHC would also like to see funding for development of a specialized app that allows users to notify a street outreach team when they encounter someone experiencing homelessness, and make a donation toward services.
For more information about Tarrant County Homeless Coalition or to view the complete 2016 State of the Homeless Report, visit www.ahomewithhope.org.