New tool could help streamline homeless services in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

New tool could help streamline homeless services in Nevada County

211, a services hotline operated by Connecting Point on Sutton Way in Grass Valley, provides information about public transportation, employment opportunities, homeless shelters and other services. The agency is now operating a new system that some say could help streamline the help available for homeless people.

Guests at Hospitality House, Nevada County's emergency homeless shelter, are now asked a standard series of questions as part of a program that, if implemented by other organizations, could help streamline homeless services in the area and create a framework for serving the most vulnerable people in the community.

The "coordinated entry system" — operated locally by Nevada County's services hotline, 211 — is being implemented nationwide in an effort to identify those who most need help.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this year began requiring some organizations adopt an entry system. In Nevada County, that system is now getting off the ground, according to Ann Guerra, executive director of Connecting Point, which runs the 211 hotline.

In order to determine a homeless person's level of vulnerability, 211 operators ask that person questions including their family size, income amount, disability or health conditions and domestic violence history.

Based on the answers provided, Connecting Point ranks an interviewee using a point system and enters their information into the coordinated entry database.

Service organizations use the system like a wait list, ensuring those who need assistance most are served first, according to Guerra.

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Nevada County's Behavioral Health Department and Hospitality House are the only organizations in Nevada County required to use the system, according to Priya Matthew, an administrative analyst with Nevada County's Health and Human Services Agency. But if others choose to use the system, it can have greater benefits, she said.

"The idea is that every organization has different ways of doing intake and prioritizing people," Matthew said. "This kind of standardizes that. It's a set list of questions we're asking every person who calls … That's why we're encouraging the community as a whole to participate in coordinated entry. If you get on the list, you get a better chance of being helped by the right agencies."

Isaias Acosta, program manager for Hospitality House, said the program could help local organizations work together more effectively.

"This has the powerful potential to help connect all the service providers here in Nevada County," he said. "The more providers that input information into the system, the more effective it becomes."

The system helps Nevada County gather better data about the services it offers, according to Tim Giuliana, program manager for Connecting Point.

"It tells us how many people experiencing homelessness aren't using services like CalFresh," he said.

That information, he said, can help agencies ramp up their outreach, when needed, and can provide data that helps in requesting funding for services.

Because the ranking system is operated by 211, it provides an opportunity to offer people other services, too, Giuliana said.

The hotline is a resource and information hub that connects people with community programs and services, including transportation information, employment possibilities, food stamps and shelters, among others.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.