Understanding the System

A look at how Tarrant County addresses homelessness

Understanding the System

A look at how Tarrant County addresses homelessness

The Old Way

For over a hundred years, the model of “housing readiness” has been the norm in services to people experiencing homelessness. People are expected to qualify for housing programs by securing employment, getting sober, or resolving other barriers before receiving housing.

The New Way

The new “gold standard” in homeless services is Housing First. Housing First is predicated on the proven concept that people are more likely to become employable or tackle issues such as chemical dependency when they have a stable home base from which to relate to the world.

In Tarrant County, dozens of organizations work together with the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition to provide wrap-around services and partner together to help people escape homelessness.

Continuum of Care

The Continuum of Care (CoC) is the collective networks, institutions, and organizations in Tarrant County that provide housing and services to people who are at risk of or are experiencing homelessness.

Currently, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition is appointed as the Lead Agency, Collaborative Applicant, and database administrator.

Coordinated Entry

Coordinated Entry is a process designed to ensure all experiencing homelessness have fair and equal access to the community’s resources; are quickly identified, assessed, and rapidly served with the most appropriate intervention.

The Journey

  • First, a person (or family) without a home connects with a program such as night shelters, women’s shelters, day shelters, outreach teams who work with people camping, etc. These entry points into the Continuum of Care start the journey out of homelessness!
  • Next, CoC staff conduct two assessments: HUD (length of homelessness, disabling conditions, income, benefits received, etc.) and VI-SPDAT (in-depth regarding health, criminal history, trauma, etc.) These assessments together allow providers to prioritize services based on individual or family vulnerability. These assessments are updated as life changes occur.
  • Now, the person is added to the online database that tracks everyone seeking housing assistance. This database contains case notes, family notes, background and service information, etc. so that all agencies across the CoC have access to the information.
  • In time, the person is added to the housing list and is connected with the appropriate housing intervention. This is NOT a first-come, first-served system. The person’s vulnerability assessment will affect how quickly they rise to the top of the list. This list is updated every two weeks.
  • Now, the person enters Navigation services. At this point, they are assisted with securing documentation, searching various programs for appropriate housing opportunities, and generally preparing for housing. CoC staff ensure all necessary documentation is uploaded into the database. Navigators help the person visit potential housing sites, coordinate with landlords and management, and help the person with rental applications and deposits. All navigation in Fort Worth is handled by DRC staff.
  • Finally, an appropriate housing placement is secured! This is the day the person and CoC staff has been looking forward to! This is a day of celebration, tears, smiles, and joy! Arrangements are made for move-in, and then the person is home at last.

But care doesn’t end there!

Now the person is assigned to a Housing Case Manager, someone to check on them, assist them with setting personal goals, connecting with community resources and healthcare providers, securing furniture and household items, and generally advocating on their behalf. How long these services last depends upon the person. Some people may need very little follow up, while others, like those in Permanent Supportive Housing, may need a lifetime of assistance.

Time Line and Barriers

The goal for this system is to have each person appropriately housed in 60 days. Some may take a few weeks, others may take as much as six months.
Barriers to swift placement include:

  • Lack of affordable housing opportunities
  • Lack of documents
  • Poor rental history
  • Criminal background
  • Lack of transportation
  • Lack of means of communication
  • Inability to locate the person

If you’ve ever thought, “All these agencies should work together,” please know that we do. 

Housing First makes housing last.

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