Coordinated Entry homeless assistance

The Coordinated Entry System is the county's approach to organizing and providing housing services for people experiencing homelessness in Hennepin County.

Because housing resources are limited, this process is designed to ensure that individuals and families with the highest vulnerability, service needs, and length of homelessness receive top priority in housing placement.

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Access for singles

There are not enough housing resources, so housing is not guaranteed. Coordinated Entry System is only available to people who are currently experiencing homelessness.

Eligibility

Our process includes an assessment that takes about 20-60 minutes and helps to identify barriers to housing, homeless history, and vulnerability. This information is used to help determine which supportive housing programs you may be eligible for. You will then be placed on a priority list based on your needs and barriers, and referred to an appropriate housing program when an opening becomes available.

Staying in homeless shelters

If you are currently staying at a homeless shelter in Hennepin County, you will be identified by shelter staff for assessment.

Please note that anyone who accesses emergency shelter for 14 days is eligible for an assessment and should request one from their shelter worker or street outreach worker if not already scheduled.

Staying outdoors, in a vehicle, camping, etc.

Contact the St. Stephen's street outreach team at 612-879-7624 or 888-550-7624.

Couch-hopping or doubled up with friends/family or on the verge of losing housing

You are not currently eligible for housing resources available through Coordinated Entry, and you should not enter shelter for the sole purpose of becoming eligible. You would wait at least 14 days in shelter to be assessed, and a referral for homeless-dedicated housing is not guaranteed even for those who are eligible. Please explore other housing resources listed in the housing section of this site.

In a treatment facility or jail/prison

You are not currently eligible for housing resources available through Coordinated Entry. If you are in a shelter or outdoors and plan on going to treatment or serving out a sentence, please meet with an advocate to be assessed before you go and stay in contact throughout your treatment stay. There is no guarantee that you will be referred to housing prior to completing your time in treatment or jail.

How to make a referral

Assessing agencies directly enter the Coordinated Entry System assessment into a client’s record in HMIS. This adds clients to the priority list for housing vacancies. This process has replaced the former system of scanning paper assessments and sending them to Hennepin County for manual data entry onto a separately maintained priority list.

What happens next

Advocates with access to HMIS should check the client’s record to ensure all the information in the CES assessment is up-to-date and accurate. Additionally, they can see if the client has been referred to a housing program already.

Please keep in mind that Coordinated Entry generates a priority list based on vulnerability, need, and length of homelessness. The priority list does not work like a waiting list, and we cannot predict upcoming vacancies or potential matches for those vacancies. It is important that you manage this expectation for both yourself and the individuals you are serving.

Housing through CES is not guaranteed and individuals should continue exploring other possibilities, including working to increase income.

For more information, see the frequently asked questions section.

Access for families

Eligibility

Families are screened using the VI-FSPDAT (PDF). The assessment takes about an hour, and gives the assessor a general idea of what sort of homeless-dedicated housing intervention may work the best for each family. All data will be stored in Hennepin County’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), an online database only accessible to those who hold an HMIS license.

Families are screened using the VI-FSPDAT. The assessment takes about an hour, and gives the assessor a general idea of what sort of homeless-dedicated housing intervention may work the best for each family. All data on the family will be stored in Hennepin County’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) which is an online database that is only accessible to those who hold a license.

There are not enough housing resources, so housing is not guaranteed. Coordinated Entry System for families is only available to people who are:

  • Currently experiencing HUD literal homelessness (see Terminology section)
  • Hennepin County residents, determined by a household’s County of Financial Responsibility (CFR)
  • 16 years old or older
  • Pregnant or have a minor child(ren) in your care or custody
  • Staying in shelter or a place not meant for human habitation
    • Families lose eligibility for some housing resources if they leave shelter for more than seven days

Staying at People Serving People, St. Anne's, or the Drake

You will automatically be screened for Coordinated Entry as part of your re-vouchering process. You do not need to do anything else to be assessed and placed on the priority list.

Residing at other shelters including domestic violence or youth shelters

You can access the Coordinated Entry System by calling the Front Door Social Services at 612-348-4111 to request a referral. You will receive a call-back within two business days.

Sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation

Call Front Door Social Services at 612-348-4111 for access to the family assessors.

Couch-hopping or doubled up with friends/family or on the verge of losing housing

You are not currently eligible for housing resources available through Coordinated Entry, and you should not enter shelter for the sole purpose of becoming eligible. You would wait at least 14 days in shelter to be assessed, and a referral for homeless-dedicated housing is not guaranteed even for those who are eligible. Please explore other housing resources listed in the housing section of this site.

In a treatment facility or jail/prison

You are not currently eligible for housing resources available through Coordinated Entry. If you are in a shelter or outdoors and plan on going to treatment or serving out a sentence, please meet with an advocate to be assessed before you go. There is no guarantee that you will be referred to housing prior to completing your time in treatment or jail.

What happens next

Advocates with access to HMIS should check the client’s record to ensure all the information in the CES assessment is up-to-date and accurate. Additionally, they can see if the client has been referred to a housing program already.

Please keep in mind that Coordinated Entry generates a priority list based on vulnerability, need, and length of homelessness. The priority list does not work like a waiting list, and we cannot predict upcoming vacancies or potential matches for those vacancies. It is important that you manage this expectation for both yourself and the individuals you are serving.

Housing through CES is not guaranteed and individuals should continue exploring other possibilities, including working to increase income.

For more information, see the frequently asked questions section.

Housing

What housing is part of Coordinated Entry?

Homeless-designated units

Rapid rehousing: Short- to medium-term (most often 3-9 months) housing access services, rental subsidy, and case management

Transitional housing: Medium-term (up to 24 months) affordable housing and services

Subsidies (Housing Trust Fund)

Permanent supportive housing (includes site-based and scattered-site housing)

Homeless + disability housing resources

  • Group residential housing supportive housing (Housing First - GRH LTH)
  • Permanent supportive housing
  • Subsidies (Shelter + Care vouchers)
  • Tenancy support services

There are not enough of these units for everyone that needs and deserves housing. Eligibility differs for each program, and the supplemental form and the referral process are used to help determine appropriate placements.

For people who are eligible for these units and have been assessed for Coordinated Entry, it is still in your best interest to also try and access general housing resources (see below).

What housing is not part of Coordinated Entry?

Disability-designated housing

The following resources are targeted to people who have a disability and need housing supports that help them live sustainably and safely. If you have a disability, you should try to access these housing resources.

Homelessness prevention resources

  • Financial assistance
  • Case management assistance

General (market rate/mainstream) housing resources

Market rate housing (landlords, Craigslist, HousingLink)

Emergency assistance / emergency general assistance

Energy assistance

Basic needs assistance, including:

Housing subsidies (Section 8)

How do you get access to other housing options?

There are many mainstream application and referral processes for people who aren't eligible for Coordinated Entry or for people who have been assessed for Coordinated Entry and are waiting.

Apply for assistance to prevent becoming homeless:

  • Step one: apply for emergency assistance or emergency general assistance (singles: 612-596-1300; families: 612-596-1900)
  • Step two: if you are not eligible for emergency assistance or emergency general assistance, identify a local assistance provider by calling 2-1-1 or by reviewing the options listed in the homelessness prevention referral guide (PDF)

Affordable housing resources can be found at HousingLink

Call 2-1-1 for community resources

Call Day One at 866-223-1111 if you are experiencing domestic violence and need shelter

Seek out the Community Support Programs (CSPs) in our community (an internet search will reveal local resources and eligibility requirements)

Visit the youth or adult opportunity centers to access a variety of basic needs services

Utilize the Hennepin Housing Key to search for supportive housing

Utilize the private market for housing (Craigslist, property managers, etc.)

Obtain information on affordable housing (public housing waitlists, section 8, etc.)

Basic needs assistance, including food assistance (SNAP), nutrition (WIC), general assistance

Access employment resources (to be able to better afford housing)

Terminology

Assessment: Hennepin County’s Coordinated Entry System uses the VI-SPDAT tool to assess single adults, families, and transition-age youth populations. This assessment measures the vulnerability of a person to establish the risk to their life if access to housing and supports are not available. The assessment score provides guidance for what type of housing intervention may work best for that person.

Coordinated Entry System (CES): Hennepin County’s approach to organizing and providing services and assistance to people experiencing a housing crisis in Hennepin County.

Coordinated Entry for families: The process in which families (16 years old or older, who is pregnant and/or has custody of minor children) who have been assessed as experiencing literal homelessness are matched with the vacancies of Hennepin County's homeless-dedicated housing units.

Coordinated Entry for singles: The process in which single adults (16 years old or older without dependents) who have been assessed as experiencing literal homelessness are matched with the vacancies of Hennepin County's homeless-dedicated housing units.

Family assessor: Two family assessors complete assessments for families residing in shelters or places not meant for human habitation. They are located at the Human Services Building on Portland Avenue in downtown Minneapolis and at St. Stephens Human Services — both locations are by appointment only.

Group residential housing (GRH): A state funding source for housing and some services for people with disabling conditions.

GRH Housing First / long-term homeless program: Provides housing-based rent subsidies and housing support services that follow clients over time and across housing choices, providing maximum financial and emotional continuity.

This approach minimizes the demands on clients of forming new relationships with different service providers if the client graduates or fails at a specific or site-based program. The purpose of the Housing First program is to house individuals who have experienced long periods of homelessness and to expand tenant-based permanent supportive housing opportunities in integrated housing.

Some clients will need intensive, highly professionalized services while others will want a more supportive approach. Many will have needs and preferences that change significantly over time. Families and community both benefit from the Housing First approach.

Housing referral: This is when the housing referral coordinator refers someone from the priority list to a vacancy in a homeless dedicated unit.

  • For singles – the assessor and the housing provider receiving the referral are notified by the housing referral coordinator. Those two people work together to find the person and inform them of the referral.
  • For families – the housing provider will reach out directly to the family.

Housing referral coordinator: A staff person within Hennepin County HSPHD/Office to End Homelessness who matches an individual’s assessment with vacancies in the limited number of homeless-dedicated housing units in Hennepin County. The referral coordinator then refers the person to that vacancy using the following information: VI-SPDAT score, supplemental information (i.e., homeless history, disabling conditions, housing preferences, barriers), time spent in shelter, and eligibility criteria for the homeless dedicated unit. There is one housing referral coordinator for families and one for singles.

HUD literal homelessness: An individual or family that lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This means that individuals or families are in one of the following situations:

  • Has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not meant for human habitation
  • Is living in a publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements
  • Is exiting an institution where they have resided for 90 days or less and entered the institution from one of the two settings above . Please note that Hennepin County’s Coordinated Entry has not yet finalized a process for assessing individuals leaving institutions that meet the definition of literal homelessness.

People fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking and who lack resources and support networks to obtain other permanent housing may be considered homeless, but do not meet the definition of HUD literal homelessness. (Please note that Hennepin County’s singles Coordinated Entry has not yet finalized a process for assessing individuals that meet this definition. For families – please see below for process of accessing Front Door.)

Priority list: A database of information that is managed by the housing referral coordinators. The list tracks and organizes assessment scores and supplemental questionnaire information. The housing referral coordinators use this database to make referrals.

Rapid rehousing: An intervention designed to help individuals and families quickly exit homelessness and return to permanent housing. This assistance is offered without preconditions (such as employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety) and the resources and services provided are tailored to the unique needs of the household. The core components of a rapid rehousing program are listed below. While a rapid rehousing program must have all three essential elements available, it is not required that a single entity provide all three elements nor that a household utilize all of them.

Essential elements of rapid rehousing include:

  • Housing identification
  • Rental and move-in assistance
  • Rapid rehousing case management and services

Single adult and youth assessor: Professional who is trained on administering the VI-SPDAT and collecting supplemental information needed to determine prioritization and eligibility for homeless-dedicated housing programs. Assessments are submitted to the housing referral coordinator.

Single adult and youth assessors are front-line advocates. They are staff in shelters, outreach teams, and youth drop-in centers who can complete assessments as part of their regular job duties. Assessors also ensure any updates to an individual's circumstances get communicated to the housing referral coordinator. Finally, single and youth assessors are notified when the assessed person has been referred to a housing program. They then work with the housing provider to notify the assessed person and connect them to the housing opportunity.

Supplemental form for singles: This is a form used to assess the person's housing preferences. The results are used during the referral decision. However, this assessment may not be given to all people assessed using the VI-SPDAT.

Supplemental form for families: The family assessors complete the full VI-FSPDAT and supplemental questions for every family who is assessed.

VI-SPDAT (Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool): This is the primary tool used to measure vulnerability of people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota. In addition, the county uses customized assessments for families and transition-aged youth.

Frequently asked questions

For singles experiencing homelessness

Q: Can I call and get a status update on where I am on the list?

A: No, because the priority list does not work like a waiting list. There is no order of people and we cannot predict upcoming vacancies or potential matches for those vacancies.

Q: How can I update my information once I have already been assessed?

If information is missing from the assessment, the housing referral coordinator will notify the assessor, who will reach out to the person experiencing homelessness to ensure all the necessary info is gathered.

The best thing for someone who has been assessed to do is to keep in touch with the provide / assessor that originally conducted your assessment. If your contact information changes, or something significant about your circumstances changes (health, income, or entering mental health or treatment center), notify the person who assessed you and they can make sure your information is updated.

Q: Do I get removed from the priority list if I move out of the shelter?

A: Not immediately. However, before a housing referral is made, the housing referral coordinator will check to see if the person has engaged with street outreach or been in shelter within the past few weeks. If the person has not been accessing the homeless response system for several weeks and is unable to be reached, they will be skipped.

It is critical for people to stay in touch with their assessor. We don’t want to skip anyone, but we also want to make sure that referrals are being given to people currently in need of these housing resources.

For families experiencing homelessness

Q: Can I call and get a status update on where I am on the list?

A: No, because the priority list does not work like a waiting list. There is no order of people and we cannot predict upcoming vacancies or potential matches for those vacancies.

Q: How can I update my information once I have already been assessed?

Q: If a family is currently staying at an emergency shelter in another county, but they have been a Hennepin County resident (their county of financial responsibility is Hennepin), can they go through Hennepin County CES? What happens if since entering the shelter, they have applied to transfer their case to their current county?

A: Yes, their county of financial responsibility does not change because they are staying in a shelter in a different county. Shelter is a time-excluded facility, so it does not change residency. They are still Hennepin County residents and should access Hennepin CES.

Q: If the parent is staying in an emergency shelter (single adult or domestic violence) but the children are staying with friends/family, do they qualify as a family?

A: Yes, as long as the parent who is trying to access family CES still has custody of the children and will get them back upon entrance into housing.

Q: If the children are currently in foster care and the parent is staying at an emergency shelter (or place not meant for human habitation), can they receive a referral as a family?

A: Yes. Eligibility for a housing referral is partially based on being literally homeless, so being in shelter or in a place not meant for human habitation qualifies.

Q: Does a family get removed from the priority list if they move out of the shelter?

A: If a family has received a housing referral to a rapid rehousing program and has completed intake with the housing provider, the provider will continue working with the family to find housing if they leave shelter. However:

  • You have many more resources available to you in shelter that will help you to find housing
  • As long as you’re in shelter, the shelter staff will help you stay in contact with your rapid rehousing worker
  • The rapid rehousing worker may not have as much financial assistance available to help you if you leave shelter
  • If you do need to leave shelter, stay in very close contact with your rapid rehousing worker, or they will discharge you from the program

A. If a family was not referred to rapid rehousing, they lose eligibility for Coordinated Entry if they move out of shelter.

For assessors (singles/youth)

Q: What kind of language can I use to tell people who score low on the VI-SPDAT that there are limited housing options for them?

A: There simply are not enough homeless-dedicated units for all the people who want and are eligible for them. That is why it's critical that the assessment be universally administered to determine who is most vulnerable.

One of your options is to encourage some people to self-resolve. This means the person is likely to be able to access mainstream housing resources (see above) to solve their homelessness without much engagement or intervention from our homeless response system. If someone scores a 0-4 on the VI-SDPAT, it means that the recommendation would be that they should not be referred through Coordinated Entry because they are likely to be able to resolve their own homelessness.

As an assessor, the best thing you can do is to communicate clearly with the person that they will not be referred to housing through Coordinated Entry, but that there are housing resources outside of CES that they may be eligible for. See the housing section of this site for resources and how to access them.

You should also explain that the VI-SPDAT score in no way means that the person being assessed doesn't deserve or need housing. Anyone who is receiving an assessment for Coordinated Entry needs and deserves housing. This assessment is for the limited amount of housing resources that go through CES and only those units.

Q: Are there any timelines that I should be giving out to people regarding how long they could be waiting on housing? Should I refer them to other agencies in the meantime?

A: Timelines vary for everyone depending on their VI-SPDAT score, their housing preferences, the housing and criminal history, program eligibility criteria, etc. The best thing you can do is tell the person not to wait for a referral through CES and instead continue to try to access other housing options.

If someone finds housing before they are referred to housing through CES, please make sure to follow-up with the housing referral coordinator immediately so they can update the priority list.

For housing providers (families)

Q: What if the referrals I receive cannot be reached?

A: You can always refer to the CES cover sheet to identify where the family is staying.

  • Staying at one of the county contracted shelters (People Serving People, St. Anne’s, or the Drake) – you can email HSPH shelter team at HSPH.Shelter.Team@hennepin.us to help locate the client. PSP clients are assigned an advocate who is in a good position to help find the client. Please refer to the cover sheet for the advocate's contact information.
  • Staying out in the community and/or a domestic violence shelter – please call the specific shelter and ask to leave a message for the client to call you back.
  • Staying in a place not meant for human habitation – the St. Stephen’s human services street outreach team (612-879-7624) may be able to help locate the client.

For housing providers (singles)

Q: What if the person that has received a referral cannot be reached?

A: There are many ways you can and should attempt to find the person. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Contact the staff person who completed the CES assessment and see if they have updated contact information or have had any contact with the person.
  • Look them up in HMIS to see if they have recently accessed shelter and where they are staying. If you don't have HMIS access, but know that the person has signed a HMIS ROI, then email (ascstaff@simpsonhousing.org) the Adult Shelter Connect office and ask them to look the person up. Be sure to attach the signed ROI to the email.
  • Look them up in MAXIS, if you have access.
  • Call street outreach programs to let them know that the person was referred through CES, and that they should contact you if they come across them.
  • If you can't find the person that was referred to your housing program after a full two weeks of actively looking, contact the housing referral coordinator right away to let them know and to receive a new referral.

Q: What if the person that has received a referral does not fit the criteria for my program?

A: Hennepin County's two housing referral coordinators take great care and consideration before making a referral. Both the preferences of the person experiencing homelessness and the housing provider's eligibility criteria are taken into consideration.

  • It is expected that once you are given a referral, you will attempt to find and engage with that person. If after going through your intake processes the person is not eligible for your program, then you must communicate that to the housing referral coordinators clearly.
  • If a provider denies three referrals in a row, or the housing referral coordinator identifies a pattern of denials over time, the organization will be required to participate in a meeting with the housing referral coordinator and a staff person representing the funding source (e.g., CoC coordinator, GRH planner, etc.) to discuss options.
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