The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act was signed into law in 2009 and went into effect in 2012. HEARTH set the stage for a significant transformation in the approach to ending homelessness in the United States.
The HEARTH Act sets forth measurable outcomes for communities as they work towards reducing homelessness and charges Continuums of Care (CoCs) with responsibilities to meet them.
Becoming an effective outcome-oriented system means that communities constantly improve their performance in meeting these outcomes. Communities pay attention to data, assessing performance, and planning for improvement.
An effective outcome-oriented system gives communities regular feedback on how they are performing as a whole.
It also gives regular feedback on how they can take steps to further reduce homelessness.
New Jersey is seeing success in ending homelessness with rapid re-housing and coordinated assessment.
Rapid Re-Housing is a strategy that has proven successful in helping communities cost effectively reduce homelessness. Homeless households entering the emergency shelter and transitional housing system are immediately provided with services to connect them with permanent housing.
Once housing has been located, households are provided with temporary rental assistance and short term, intensive case management to help them stabilize and maintain their housing.
New Jersey is in a unique position to utilize Emergency Assistance (EA) funds to provide intensive case management to households placed in permanent housing through Temporary Rental Assistance (TRA) and create a statewide opportunity to implement rapid re-housing.
In Mercer County, the Mercer County Board of Social Services is utilizing a single point of entry model to assess and prioritize rapid rehousing resources for families, with a commitment to intensive case management, wraparound services, and linkage to other community supports to ensure success. Community leaders embrace the rapid rehousing model and dedicate resources for housing assistance and client centered inter-agency collaboration.
Centralized and/or Coordinated Assessment, also known as coordinated entry or coordinated intake, paves the way for more efficient homeless assistance systems by:
Helping people move through the system faster (by reducing the amount of time people spend moving from program to program before finding the right match);
Reducing new entries into homelessness (by consistently offering prevention and diversion resources upfront, reducing the number of people entering the system unnecessarily); and
Improving data collection and quality and providing accurate information on what kind of assistance consumers need.
Coordinated assessment is ideally a system-wide process and can serve any and all populations. Systems may accomplish coordinated assessment through the use of a centralized phone hotline (e.g. a 2-1-1), a single physical point of assessment (through an emergency shelter or a dedicated assessment center, for example) or a decentralized coordinated system (with multiple assessment points all employing the same assessment and referral process).
In Middlesex County, the Coordinated Assessment System has helped Coming Home of Middlesex County and its partners identify and successfully apply for almost all available slots.