City Begins Coordinated Approach to Improving Access to Homeless Services
Today, the city of Waco rolls out its “coordinated assessment” program, a system designed to streamline and improve access to homeless services in Waco.
The idea behind coordinated access is to streamline the processes that a person would have to go through in order to find out what type of housing services and programs are available to them. In the past, someone in search of housing aid might have to go to several varying locations, before they figure out what their options are.
But that’s changed now, according to Jessica Devorsky, Waco’s homeless management information system coordinator. She says that now there are two places where one can take a single evaluation.
“And after you take that assessment we have a system that will actually tell you what of all of the available programs you would qualify for so you wouldn’t have to go place to place and take many different assessments throughout the city to find different housing opportunities," Devorsky said.
The 50-question assessment used is known as the ‘vulnerability index service priotizaiton decision assistance tool”, or VI-SPDAT for short. It’s a pre-screening tool that allows you to evaluate the health and social needs for homeless persons in a community. It also connects them with the aid that’s most suitable for them. Cameron Goodman, a program analyst with the City of Waco’s housing and economic development, says the assessment is almost like triaging, where you take the individual with the highest score, the most at risk, and get them the help they need first.
“They have health conditions mixed with the fact that they’ve been on the streets for a long period of time and they’re usually the ones that rank as the most vulnerable," Goodman said. "So this score takes into account and let’s us see that when they come in for help that we prioritize helping those individuals since they’re at most risk for being on the street and get them the program they need.”
In the last 10 years, Goodman, says homelessness in Waco has decreased by more than 50 percent, from about 600 to 250 people. He, and other city officials, point to the 2005 10 year plan to end chronic homelessness, spurred by then-mayor Virginia Dupuy. And now at the 10-year mark, the city is revamping that approach to include coordinated access, which officials say will help those 250 people still afflicted with homeless to find shelter and aid - all of which, Devorsky says is essential.
"It's the keystone to mental and physical well-being, is having a safe place to live. It's meeting your basic needs before taking care of anything else."
According to officials, Waco is one of the first communities in the state to get an early start on implementing the coordinated access program.
You can find out more information and be evaluated for housing services and programs available to you at:
Salvation Army Social Services
The Meyer Center
7-1 and 4-5 Monday-Thursday and Friday 7-1130