Coordinated Entry Continuous Improvement Strategy Planning

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City of Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services
Organization Overview: 

The mission of the Office of Homeless Services is to provide the leadership, coordination, planning and mobilization of resources to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring for the City of Philadelphia.

Homeless Services works collaboratively with more than 60 mostly nonprofit, homeless housing and service providers combined with city, state and federal governmental entities to comprise Philadelphia’s homeless service system or Continuum of Care (CoC). This system provides housing and services to people who are currently experiencing or have experienced homelessness, as well as those at imminent risk of homelessness. The system includes homelessness prevention and diversion, emergency, transitional and rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, case management, supportive services, street outreach, emergency response, service days (clean up of encampments), food and commodity distribution to contracted emergency housing facilities and soup kitchens, and operation of the Riverview, a personal care home.

Homeless Services’ Policy, Planning, and Performance (P3) Division leads the planning and development of a comprehensive continuum of homeless services for the City of Philadelphia. The Division includes units dedicated to the Homeless Management Information System and its data; Performance Management of the homeless system as whole as well as the performance of individual providers, including data analytics support; Monitoring and Compliance of OHS, providers, contractors, and sub-contractors with Federal, State, and City policies and requirements; Training & Technical Assistance to develop the workforce within CoC homeless services programs (at OHS and at the many projects) and support transformational initiatives through training/learning events and resources for homeless services providers; CoC Planning to support a collaborative process for the development and submission of an annual Consolidated Application to HUD, conduct an annual point-in-time count of persons experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia, conduct systems gaps analysis, and develop, follow, and support a community plan to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in Philadelphia. The Coordinated Entry and Assessment-Based Housing Referral System (CEA-BHRS) unit is responsible for leading CEA-BHRS design, implementation, and evaluation processes, which includes ensuring compliance with HUD requirements; coordinating all CEA-BHRS related activities; creating and maintaining policies and procedures manual; and leading continuous quality improvement efforts.

Project Name: 
Coordinated Entry Continuous Improvement Strategy Planning
Project Type: 
Program Evaluation
Project Overview: 

Under the Interim Rules implementing the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act’s Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Programs (24 CFR 578 and 24 CFR 91 & 576), HUD requires each CoC to establish and operate a “centralized or coordinated assessment system” (referred to as “coordinated entry” or “coordinated entry process”) with the goal of increasing the efficiency of local crisis response systems and improving fairness and ease of access to resources, including mainstream resources. Coordinated entry processes are intended to help communities prioritize people who are most in need of assistance and to inform stakeholders about service needs and gaps to help communities strategically allocate their current resources and identify the need for additional resources. In January 2017, HUD released a Notice (CPD-17-01) with detailed requirements with which all CoCs’ coordinated entry processes will need to comply by a deadline of January 23, 2018.

Philadelphia has spent countless hours over many years designing our Coordinated Entry and Assessment-Based Housing Referral System (CEA-BHRS), intended to ensure individuals and families at-risk of or experiencing homelessness have access to a streamlined and standardized process that links households to appropriate resources to end their housing crisis. By January 23rd, this process, designed to coordinate program participant access, assessment, and referrals to homeless assistance services and housing, will be in operation. CEA-BHRS will shift the focus of Philadelphia’s homeless services significantly, from a strategy that says “Should we accept this household into our program?” to one that says “What housing /service assistance is best for each household and quickly ends their housing crisis permanently?”

As stated in the draft CEA-BHRS Policies & Procedures, “implementation of the CEA-BHRS process requires significant, community-wide change. To ensure CEA-BHRS is effective for both households experiencing homelessness and homeless assistance providers, adjustments to the policies and processes…are anticipated.” 

Building the infrastructure for initial and ongoing CEA-BHRS evaluation and quality improvement would be the project supported by student engaged through the Fels Lab. At a high level, the relevant questions are:

• Is CEA-BHRS functioning according to its design principles?

• Does CEA-BHRS work for persons experiencing a housing crisis?

• Does CEA-BHRS work for homeless assistance providers?

• Is the homeless assistance system more efficient and effective as a result of CEA-BHRS? 

The student would work with the Senior Program Manager and a committee of stakeholders to flesh out operational definitions of what it means for the process to “work” and how to measure alignment with design principles, efficiency, and effectiveness. The student would conduct comparative research with other communities’ coordinated entry evaluation methods discover common issues or concerns in early implementation, to inform our CEA-BHRS monitoring efforts. Ultimately, Homeless Services would ask the student to design a sustainable evaluation process, with a methodology that incorporates the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders—housing providers, supportive service providers, landlords, people with lived experience, various collaborators within City government and even within the Office of Homeless Services. We have limited quantitative data available through our Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and would ask the student to determine how we might maximize the usefulness of that data, but efforts would probably need to focus on additional data collection strategies.


The final deliverable would be a detailed evaluation plan, including explanations of design decisions, an initial and an ongoing implementation schedule, plans for capturing data that include not only tools for data collection (e.g., surveys) but clear means/sites of data collection, tools for tracking that data in the longer term, and a communication strategy, not only for communicating about the methods for providing feedback, but for communicating about the evaluation results and the actions being taken to ensure continuous quality improvement.

Spots Available: 
Full Time Only
To Apply: 

To apply for this project, please contact Cassie Tomkins at

The draft Policies and Procedures (being finalized in response to community feedback) are available here:

Penn LPS

The lifelong learning division of Penn Arts & Sciences

3440 Market Street, Suite 100
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3335

(215) 898-7326

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