The idea of coordinated assessment – a shared community process for connecting people experiencing homelessness with needed resources – sounds straightforward. Like many good ideas, at first it can be hard to see why anyone would be opposed… Streamlined access? Resources deployed based on each person’s specific needs? Stretching each community’s resources further by making sure they are deployed strategically?
What’s not to like?
In practice, creating a coordinated assessment system can be tricky, no matter how clear the benefits might be. Creating a coordinated assessment system means shifting from program-specific decision-making about who gets served to shared, criteria-based decision-making. Changing how decisions are made means changing things that programs often take for granted, like who decides who gets served? These changes can be hard (what agreements need to be amended?) and even scary (will my program achieve the same outcomes if we don’t decide who we serve?).
Setting up a coordinated assessment system is complex and doesn’t happen magically. But don’t let that stop you. Putting coordinated assessment in place doesn’t start with the challenges. It starts when communities decide that the challenges are worth facing—that people experiencing homelessness should be at the center of decisions about deploying a community’s resources to end homelessness. Starting IS the start, and people should be at the center.