The Continuum of Care.
The CoC is the current federal model, pursued by HUD, for ending homelessness. It involves coordinating service providers and their available resources in order to quickly serve or rehouse individuals. Each CoC is overseen and facilitated by an elected lead agency, which is responsible for applying to HUD for federal funds, subgranting these funds to local providers through an application process, and providing strategy and technical assistance thereafter. The lead agency may be a state or local government, or a non-profit. In Memphis, the non-profit Community Alliance for the Homeless has acted as the lead agency since 2010.
In order to receive CoC funding, a provider must uphold and maintain the principles of Housing First, participiate in the Coordinated Entry system, and enter necessary data into the community’s database (HMIS) for reporting.
Housing First. While traditional approaches may require individuals to meet preconditions like following service participation requirements, maintaining sobriety, or gaining income before placing someone into housing, the Housing First approach prioritizes placement in permanent housing as the first step.
However, Housing First does not mean housing only; Housing First ensures that individuals and families have access to the supportive services they want and need to remain in housing. These services are flexible and client-driven; Housing First recognizes that people have the agency and autonomy to choose the services that they need, and they are more likely to successfully utilize these services and remain in housing if given the choice.
Coordinated Entry. Coordinated Entry (CE) is a systematic response to anyone experiencing homelessness within Memphis and Shelby County. Our Coordinated Entry System (CES) was created to identify, assist, house and prevent homelessness in a swift and efficient manner. The CES is composed of a variety of CoC-funded housing providers, street outreach staff, and community partners that serve persons experiencing homelessness.
In Memphis/Shelby County, the CES uses two population-specific entry access points:
• No Wrong Door Approach for Individuals: Individuals can access CE through a variety of service providers who are equipped to provide assessments, referrals, and emergency services along with coordination with the Coordinated Entry Facilitator.
• Families Coordinated Entry Access Point: MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association) facilitates the access point for Families and Households with Children under 18.
Persons experiencing literal homelessness are assessed for vulnerability through a Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) with specialized assessments for sub-populations such as families and youth (ages 18-24). These assessments are scored and are used to rank individuals on the By-Name List (BNL), which is an active waiting list used to prioritize those most vulnerable for open housing programs. Bimonthly meetings are held to engage providers and outreach staff in case conferencing and collaborative conversations surrounding BNL clients’ situations to help facilitate referrals for housing placements.
Homeless Managment Information System (HMIS). HMIS is a local information technology system used to collect client-level data and data on the provision of housing and services to homeless individuals and families and persons at risk of homelessness. Each CoC is responsible for selecting an HMIS software solution that complies with HUD's data collection, management, and reporting standards. In Memphis/Shelby County, the vendor used is Clarity Human Services by Bitfocus.
What about oversight?
In addition to a traditional board of directors that monitor the activities of Community Alliance, each CoC is also supported by a Homeless Consortium. The Consortium is made up of cross-sector agencies, advocates, and providers who all work to end homelessness and improve housing conditions in Memphis. Subsequently, the Consortium is overseen by a Governing Council that helps implement and guide policies related to the Consortium.
How are day-to-day challenges approached?
In order to dig deeper on problem areas, Community Alliance is also the core facilitator for setting up subcommittees that fall within the Consortium. Currently, there are workgroups committed to addressing landlord and tenancy rights, employment, serving Veterans, and broad planning needs of the CoC.