Say you’re homeless and you’re looking for help. There are a lot of places in the Charlotte region that offer it. But some of them only help women, or men, or veterans, or domestic violence victims. United Way is part of an effort to get these groups to coordinate better so that it’s easier to match homeless people with the help they need.
The Urban Ministry Center near uptown Charlotte does a lot of this match work already. A counselor sits down with someone and goes through a page of questions to see what help that person may need. Then, the counselor refers them to another agency
“They’re going to go over to that other agency and they’re going to answer all those questions again and maybe some more,” says Urban Ministry’s Director Dale Mullennix.
That can be tough since it often means recounting traumatic circumstances three or even four times. But it’s also just inefficient and that’s where this new approach comes in. United Way received a $200,000 grant to come up with what’s called a coordinated intake system. The first step is coming up with a database that shares all this information between groups.
“So we don’t spend valuable time re-doing something someone else has already done. We get on to what’s my unique role in this person’s path and how do we get them moving on that path,” says Mullennix.
It also serves as an inventory of all the help that’s out there and constantly changing, instead of relying solely on the knowledge of a counselor. The groups that receive federal money from the Housing and Urban Development department are required to have a system in place by next August.
United Way of the Central Carolinas saw that as a chance to expand the approach to more than forty groups.
“They want to be part of it because then they’re part of what we call the continuum, the whole network, to meet people from homelessness to housing,” says United Way’s Director Jane McIntyre
Several communities already have this approach in place like Dayton, Ohio and New York City. Nan Roman with The National Alliance to End Homelessness says it’s paying off for them.
“They can serve more people. They can target resources a lot better, so they have much better outcomes to get people into housing faster,” says Roman. “They can also collect data better, so they have a much better idea of what’s working or not working and whether their numbers are going up or down.”
The alliance is working with the United Way and other local groups to develop the coordinated approach.