A new process for helping people who are homeless find shelter is launching over the next 10 months.
Under the new system, people seeking shelter will contact IMPACT 2-1-1 and trained staff will consider their individual circumstances and refer people to the appropriate shelter.
This “coordinated entry” process will simplify shelter access for homeless people and allow shelters to create consistent requirements, share resources and focus on managing individual cases and providing services to clients.
“It’s a more respectful way to serve people,” said Donna Rongholt-Migan, executive director of the Cathedral Center, a shelter for homeless women and families.
Traditionally, a person would call an emergency shelter and beds would be provided on a first-come, first-served basis, Rongholt-Migan explained. If the shelter had no room, shelter staff would refer callers to other area shelters.
“With the coordinated entry process we can prioritize families in most dire need,” Rongholt-Migan said. In addition, IMPACT 2-1-1 will screen callers for mental or physical disabilities and serious illnesses, ensuring a faster intake process after they arrive at a shelter. People don’t have to make multiple calls, and IMPACT 2-1-1 coordinates with all eight participating shelters.
“This takes the burden off the case managers and allows them to focus on the needs of the people at the shelter,” Rongholt-Migan added.
Since 2008, the Cathedral Center has partnered with IMPACT 2-1-1 on a similar program that formed the basis for the coordinated entry program, Rongholt-Migan said.
Having IMPACT 2-1-1 take over this central role in coordinating shelter access makes sense, Rongholt-Migan said, because it already had a 211 telephone hotline to connect people in crisis to resources. IMPACT INC. has been providing programs and services for people in need for more than 50 years.
IMPACT 2-1-1 can be reached 24 hours per day, seven days per week by dialing 2-1-1. Clients can also text their ZIP codes to TXT-211 (898-211) or chat live with a community resource specialist at www.impactinc.org/impact-2-1-1.
Homeless families are the first to benefit from the new process. The Cathedral Center, Salvation Army and Community Advocates Family Support Center already have implemented the program. Victims of domestic violence, homeless youth, veterans, single women and men will be phased in.
The new central contact number was promoted recently at Project Homeless Connect, a resource fair for homeless people.
Charlotte Taylor and John White visited the fair looking for a place to live together. Taylor has no income and has used up the therapy sessions she was allotted for her mental health issues. Without the means to buy or rent a place to live, Taylor has been moving to one shelter after another. In January, she married White, who was living in a different shelter.
The two were among an estimated 400 homeless people who attended Project Homeless Connect at Marquette University. More than 300 volunteers escorted visitors from Weasler Auditorium to the Alumni Memorial Union, where all four floors featured information booths, health screenings, medical, legal and social services, as well as clothing, a meal and personal hygiene items.
The fourth annual event was hosted by the Milwaukee Continuum of Care, a consortium of more than 100 agencies serving people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. In 2010 the coalition launched a 10-year plan to end homelessness.
Project Homeless Connect is a national movement that focuses on ending homelessness.