Coordinated Access in Houston
Marian, a mother of four, began experiencing homelessness at age 25 after separating from her husband. They married when she was 14, and she spent seven years without permanent housing after the separation. Marian faced several barriers including a three-year battle with substance use and difficulties related to her physical health. In 2013, Marian entered an emergency shelter where she was assessed by a Coordinated Access (CA) Housing Assessor and began working with a CA SEARCH Homeless Services Housing Navigator. After being offered a few options, Marian’s dream location was offered and she moved into 1414 Congress SRO in downtown Houston. This high quality apartment community offers permanent affordable housing and is part of the non-profit New Hope Housing Inc. portfolio. As part of New Hope’s housing + services program model, onsite supportive services are offered and also coordinated with additional providers to ensure that residents have their needs met and are integrated into the wider community.
The work of creating a coordinated access system started in Houston as part of a charrette hosted by CSH that helped the community create a plan to end homelessness. Following a community discussion around how to advance this effort, a Coordinated Access Manager was hired by the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County. Several of the next steps included selecting and testing an assessment, creating a plan for educating partners and piloting the new system, and designing the implementation process. Heather Muller, a CSH Program Manager, leads the Coordinated Access transition team and held a series of training sessions for both community providers and staff members who will assess clients.
In the first phase, taking place between January 6th and March 31st, 25 households who have extensive barriers have been assessed with a goal of ensuring that each household moves into permanent housing within 90 days. This process will help the Coordinated Access Work Group tweak the system as needed before moving into the second phase of implementation. This second phase will include a wider array of homeless households and use of the online CA system through the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
Back at 1414 Congress, Marian is working to obtain disability benefits and aspires to go back to school to study business and marketing. Her goal is to become financially, medically, and emotionally stable so that she can be on solid ground to rebuild her relationships with her children and family.