3 Phases to Operationalize Homelessness to Housing

Let us make this as easy as possible for everyone to understand and operationalize the phases for Rapid ReHousing and any Housing First program.


If you have a by-name priority list, it comes at the end of Phase 1. For housing, you can only prioritize those that are eligible, have the right acuity level, want to participate, have provided informed consent, and have all of their documents in place. You may have lists before that, like “The List of People We Want to Keep Engaging But Are Not Accepting the Program” or “The List of People We Are Working On Getting Documents in Order”. But if you want the list of people that are in a position to be housed, it is everyone who has gone through Phase 1.


Who does Phase 1?


You need to decide in your community what makes most sense. It is my opinion that having an outreach worker or shelter worker satisfy all of the activities of Phase 1 makes the most sense. There can be a warm hand-off to the next person (housing support worker or case manager) after everything is in order at the end of Phase 1.


In Phase 2 sits all of the housing functions. Because I can think of no School of Social Work that teaches real estate, you may be well served to have a third-party with expertise in the rental market take care of the first action in Phase 2 – Housing Search. But that is up to your community and the expertise that exists. We then need to get people leased up and moved in. Are there going to be some barriers to achieving everything required in Phase 2? Yes. I have yet to be to the community that has more than enough affordable housing or permanent supportive housing. Yet, in all of those places almost every economically poor person with a myriad of issues is already housed. So, it is possible. Will there be difficulties housing certain groups like very young unaccompanied youth, larger families, and people designated as sex offenders? Yes. But people in your community should be funded to complete Phase 2 – not funded to tell you why they cannot achieve it.


Phase 3 is completed by whomever the support worker or case manager is that is helping the household stay housed. The focus of this person is not to heal or fix the person/family, but rather to help them stay successfully housed with whatever issues they may come with, and provide assistance at whatever pace they (the person/family) wants.


Phase 3 starts with stabilizing the person/family in housing by progressively engaging. You want them to show you what skills and strengths they have as you customize your approach to providing supports. Then you can provide coaching to leverage their existing knowledge and new skills. Over time, the individual or family achieves independence (or the greatest amount of independence possible if they are a person that may benefit from a lifetime of supports in some fashion). While not all housing support programs have program exits, if yours is a time-limited intervention through Rapid ReHousing, Critical Time Intervention, or Intensive Case Management, you will be able to exit the household when the greatest amount of independence has been achieved in maintaining housing.

Iain De Jong

About Iain De Jong

2 Responses to “3 Phases to Operationalize Homelessness to Housing”

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  1. Mike Shore says:

    I love flow charts that simplify a complex process. Your comments on the various lists make me wonder about needing to solidify the list phases themselves. When an individual or family hits the coordinated entry system – whether at a central hub location (if there is one), street outreach, or some other access point – they are assessed with the community’s common assessment tool and added to the “by-name list” of people experiencing homelessness in the community, right? Assuming we can’t divert them from homeless services and they score for an intervention in our homeless services system, they are added to the “by-name list,” which can be organized by acuity, length of homelessness, chronicity, and other factors that may help us to prioritize households for next steps in the housing process. Whether they ever meet a program’s eligibility criteria, give consent to participate or secure required documentation for program participation doesn’t change the fact that we know about them and need to help them end their homelessness. It seems like those three elements are ones that we can filter the list by in order to get to the order of priority for referrals into programs. One list, refined by those that are prepared (not ” housing ready”) for admission to a program.

    A side note: this is slightly more complex, but similar to the way that many public housing authorities (PHAs) operationalize their waiting lists for programs like the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. PHAs often have households submit a pre-application (when their waiting lists are open) in order to generate a list of potentially eligible households for assistance in the program. Like in homeless services systems, the demand for housing assistance exceeds the supply of vouchers, so PHAs do not verify eligibility or begin the process of getting releases of information and documentation from the household until they near the top of the waiting list. Here’s where PHAs are ahead of us and may offer insight to our coordinated entry referral process. PHAs understand important metrics in their programs’ performance that will guide their timing in selecting households from their waiting list for eligibility determinations and program admission. This includes understanding the rate at which vouchers become available through normal program attrition, the time required to complete the eligibility determination process and ultimately the time required for the housing search and lease-up process. Included in this understanding is also the concept of success rates, which accounts for the rate at which some households will fall out at any point of the process. This is important in managing the utilization of the resource. Selecting too few households or selecting them too late may delay or under-utilize the vouchers and vice versa, too many or too early may oversubscribe them.

    As coordinated entry systems come online and assume responsibility for referring households for participation in homeless programs, they’ll need to get this right so that programs maintain full utilization of their resources. Getting this wrong will lead to programs opening side doors to their programs in order to fully utilize their resources.

  2. Howie says:

    Very helpful post!