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Addressing homelessness is difficult work, and the only way to make significant strides is through a collaborative effort. For years, a group of service providers and community residents from across Larimer and Weld Counties have been meeting as the Northern Colorado Continuum of Care (NoCO CoC), a coalition aiming to develop and sustain a system of care that helps families and individuals without housing to rapidly and permanently escape homelessness. United Way of Larimer County and United Way of Weld County have worked together to provide cross-county leadership and infrastructure to this group. The cornerstone effort of the NoCO CoC is building and implementing a Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement System, or CAHPS.
The goal of CAHPS is to streamline access to housing for people experiencing homelessness by using a common housing assessment tool across the region, maintaining one community-wide list (rather than relying on each housing program to keep their own list for referrals), and using assessment data as well as service provider knowledge to refer those who are the most vulnerable and the most in need to available housing. This process started with veterans over two years. To date, these collective efforts have resulted in 235 veterans and their families -- over 68% of all veterans in the region who have been assessed – accessing permanent housing. There’s still more work to do, including finding housing for those veterans remaining on the list and replicating this success with our non-veteran adult and family populations.
The NoCO CoC recognizes that we’ll be able to better reach these goals if we have greater local control over our data collection, planning efforts, and funding strategies. Currently, Larimer and Weld Counties are tied into a 56-county region (the Balance of State Continuum of Care) that receives federal funds to support the housing that flows through CAHPS. We believe we can make more progress in our efforts to house those experiencing homelessness if we receive these federal funds directly into our own two-county region rather than through this 56-county region. Members of the NoCO CoC are actively working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and others to make this shift, knowing this will enable us to leverage the infrastructure and partnerships we’ve built locally to better plan for and implement a system to help those in our community experiencing homelessness to regain and retain housing.
- Vanessa Fenley currently works as a consultant, providing support to the NoCO CoC and the Northern Colorado CAHPS. She has worked over a decade in various non-profit and public sector roles, developing and evaluating community-level strategies to address behavioral health, homelessness, and affordable housing needs. She holds a Masters degree in Sociology from the University of Kansas and a PhD in Public Affairs from the University of Colorado – Denver.
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County