It is a daunting experience to be homeless or facing a housing crisis, but finding help should not be.
That's the philosophy behind a new system that will offer access to a range of housing services from 22 Quad-City housing agencies — all under one roof.
Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 2, housing advocates will kick off the new Coordinated Entry Quad-Cities - Bi-State Region system. It will be provided at the Salvation Army's new offices at 100 Kirkwood Blvd., Davenport.
"Anyone who is homeless will come here," said Kelle Larned, program and operations director for Salvation Army.
With coordinated entry, clients from both sides of the river will meet with Salvation Army case workers, who will conduct a vulnerability assessment to determine their housing needs. The network then will help identify what local agency can provide the appropriate services.
As it works now, Larned said someone in a housing crisis often will visit, or call, agency after agency seeking help — many times learning there is no space available. With the new centralized hub, she said "We would have a shared network that we can see who has openings."
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, mandated any organization receiving federal HUD funding participate in a Coordinated Entry System. Locally, agencies have created a system to serve clients in both Scott and Rock Island counties.
"The goal of this is one place or one (phone) number where they could go to," she said, adding that Salvation Army stepped up to be the lead agency and will administer the program.
Christie Adamson, chief operating officer of Humility Homes & Services, said the housing partners not only want HUD-funded agencies to participate but invite any agency or organization that provides outreach to the homeless to join the effort. "We want as many people around the table as possible," she said.
Currently, those in need "bounce from here to there" and often are put on each agency's waiting list, Adamson said. With Coordinated Entry, "They will be put on a list for a whole system," she said. "We will be able to really truly see who all the people are experiencing homelessness."
The Salvation Army created two positions to support the program. Malia Dunn is the case manager, and Andrea Lapp is the Coordinated Entry manager and case manager.
Larned and Adamson stressed the coordinated approach does not increase the region's availability of low-income housing or shelter space.
"We don't really always have the help for people," Adamson said.
The first goal, she added, is diversion — keeping people from entering the system in the first place. The assessment should help identify other issues — and resources — to keep someone from becoming homeless. "Sometimes it is as simple as one month's rent or groceries to avoid going to the shelter," Adamson added.
Larned said the network also will help the region get a clearer picture on how many are in need of shelter, transitional housing, rapid re-housing or permanent housing programs as well as the demographics. "With Coordinated Entry, we hope this gives us more of a pull with HUD and other funders to get more funding."
She estimated 150 to 200 people access housing services a month across the Quad-Cities.
"In the long run, it's definitely going to help people who are homeless get placed faster, but more importantly they will not have to play the game of calling place to place (looking for help)," Larned said. "Eventually, some people give up."