This paper answers four frequently asked questions about building effective partnerships in a community’s Continuum of Care (COC), an entity that can include a partnership with the criminal justice system in developing local homeless and housing assistance systems that address the housing need of persons reentering communities after incarceration.
The first issue addressed pertains to the features and purpose of a CoC. A CoC is a local planning entity that receives funding and supportive services from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the specific purpose of providing housing assistance for homeless people. CoCs are led by a board that typically is composed of representatives from housing and homeless service agencies, behavioral health providers, government officials, and other key community partners. The second issue addressed is how a CoC prioritizes people for housing assistance. HUD requires that CoCs develop and maintain a “coordinated entry system,” which is a community-wide infrastructure that governs access to all homeless assistance resources under the CoC’s jurisdiction. The main function of this system is to provide a standardized intake and assessment process for evaluating housing and service needs for community members. This involves the development and use of uniform written standards for prioritizing people for housing assistance. The third issue addressed is how criminal justice leaders can develop or strengthen a partnership with their community’s CoC. This partnership should be based in the recognition of the significant overlap in the populations served by the criminal justice system and the CoC. The fourth issue addressed in this paper is how communities have built effective CoC and criminal justice system partnerships. Case studies are provided to show how this has been done in Cuyahoga County, Ohio and Albany, New York.