The Homelessness Partnering Secretariat (HPS) has developed several directives to assist communities with the shift to a Housing First framework. The first directive states that chronically and episodically homeless individuals should be prioritized to receive Housing First services. Therefore, it is imperative that communities are equipped with the necessary information and skills so as to facilitate the screening and prioritization of homeless individuals into Housing First services.
The screening process can serve several purposes. The process allows for initial engagement to be made with homeless individuals in the community. Once contact has been made, homeless service providers can begin to determine if individuals meet program eligibility requirements. From there, a system of prioritization can be developed in order to place individuals with the highest needs into Housing First services quickly. The focus of this review is on the screening process which is just one phase of the assessment road map.
Table of Screening Tools
A Housing First Assessment Taskforce was created by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness to provide recommendations of screening tools for communities to use. The Taskforce included researchers with extensive experience with measures relevant to those who experience mental health problems and illnesses, service providers, and program managers. (See Appendix A for membership.)
The first step for the taskforce was conducting a scan of existing practices and screening tools used in the homelessness sector. These tools were rated based upon criteria developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the United States. The criteria states that tools should be valid, reliable, inclusive, person-centered, user-friendly, strengths-based, have a Housing First orientation, sensitive to lived experiences, and transparent. The tools were also assessed on training requirements and locations of use. A total of 17 tools were located in the search and each was assessed using the HUD criteria.