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Corporation for Supportive Housing Uses iCarol ReferralQ and Provider Portal to Connect Survivors with Housing

Background

The Corporation for Supportive Housing is the national leader in supportive housing, focusing on person-centered growth, recovery and success that contributes to the health and wellbeing of entire communities. The Chicago Coordinated Entry System (CES) connects people experiencing homelessness to housing programs. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides funding for housing services, and as a condition of that funding they expect each city and county will implement the process of housing homeless individuals and families through a Coordinated Entry System (CES). The CES in Chicago uses a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) to meet the HUD-compliant data collection, management and reporting standards.

The Challenge

Federal laws such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) have rules about privacy and confidentiality that prohibit victim services agencies from entering their clients’ data into the HMIS system. In particular, VAWA strictly prohibits victim service programs from putting any personally identifiable information about victims into an HMIS system, because the information may be accessible by a variety of entities, beyond just those who are or will be directly serving the crime victim. So, if a person is homeless in Chicago and that homelessness is at all related to issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking or sexual violence and they are working with a victim service agency, United States federal law prevents those agencies from using the CES to find housing, because the CES system uses HMIS.

CSH used a number of manual processes to house survivors as workarounds to avoid HMIS and therefore avoid violating the terms of their HUD funding. Assessors at local victim services agencies completed fillable PDF forms for the assessment, then password protected them and emailed them to a Program Manager at CSH. The Program Manager then manually input the data into a protected spreadsheet. The Program Manager would use all the available data to match the person to a housing agency and make the referral. This series of manual tasks delayed processes in connecting survivors with housing, and created difficulties in the data management and reporting process which is a vital part of complying with and maintaining funding streams.

CSH needed a system that worked similarly to HMIS as far as its ability to connect and route referrals to housing providers, and something that would allow them to send the aggregate, non-identifiable data required by the HUD Continuum of Care reporting requirements. However, the system obviously could not be an HMIS itself. They needed referred providers to only be able to see the referrals made to them, and no identifiable data about others looking for housing not specifically referred to them.

The Solution: iCarol ReferralQ and Provider Portal

Under the iCarol ReferralQ/Provider Portal workflow, skilled assessors located at the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline and Catholic Charities, who are authorized users in CSH’s iCarol system, use an iCarol Contact Form to complete and submit an assessment. Then, the CSH Program Manager takes those assessments, evaluates them, and assigns them to the housing waitlist in ReferralQ. There they can be sorted, prioritized, and matched with the right housing navigator, rapid rehousing agency, or other appropriate agency with capacity to provide housing-related services. Prioritization can be based on any internal criteria they decide. For instance, in this past year one criteria was COVID risk — if a survivor and their family was staying at a shelter or congregate setting where they were at high risk of contracting COVID, that could be a factor in prioritizing them for connection with the Housing Navigator or Rapid Rehousing program ahead of someone at less of a COVID risk, and move them from the shelter into housing that was considered more COVID-safe.

Once a client is matched and the referral is made to one of the providers, the local Housing Navigators, Rapid Rehousing staff, and others with permissions to access the iCarol Provider Portal log in to see what referrals were sent to them. Through the Provider Portal they can securely access the referral information to make contact with the person in need, and they can only see the referrals made specifically to them, which is a key component needed to comply with VAWA. These providers also use the Provider Portal to update their agency’s capacity to take on new cases, for example they schedule the capacity to increase on a certain date if they anticipate certain cases closing and new capacity opening on a certain day, or if they know capacity will open up at the beginning of a month.

Benefits

Through their use of iCarol’s ReferralQ and Provider Portal, the staff of CSH are able to quickly and efficiently connect survivors of sexual or domestic violence with safe housing, while avoiding the complications that arise from using HMIS. The ReferralQ dashboard allows CSH staff to sort and prioritize referrals based on their own customizable and configurable criteria that can be viewed in the ReferralQ, while the data entered by providers into the Provider Portal, viewable in the ReferralQ, gives CSH staff insight into Rapid Rehousing and Housing Navigators’ capacity for new cases in real-time. This helps CSH staff connect clients to the best service to meet their needs. CSH is able to directly and securely transmit referral information to Rapid Rehousing, Housing Navigators, and other victim service agencies, using a process that had the all the benefits of the HMIS style of housing referrals, without the violation of federal law that HMIS presents in cases of serving victims of domestic or sexual violence. Most importantly, they can ensure that the providers only have access to the information of clients specifically referred to that provider. CSH staff can fulfill their required reporting needs to HUD and other funders using the exporting tools and statistical reports available in iCarol. Most importantly, CSH staff are able to act more quickly and reduce frustration or additional wait times for clients in need, because the information is no longer handled through manual, multi-step processes in external spreadsheets and documents.

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