Chesco makes change to homeless program

In stark contrast to the affluent around them, more than 600 people, many of them children, experience homelessness on any given night, according to Chester County officials.

Even more troubling is the fact that during the past year, 51 percent of the people who called ConnectPoints, a county hotline designed to connect them to emergency shelter and other resources, had to be turned away because beds weren’t available.

Lauren E. Hutzel, administrator of Decade to Doorways, Chester County’s 10-year plan to prevent and end homelessness in the county, said a new procedure would go into effect on Monday, July 11.

ConnectPoints will change from a first-come, first-serve coordinated entry system to a prioritized coordinated entry system into shelter. People in need will still call the same number at 1-800-935-3181 and if deemed in need of shelter, ConnectPoints staff will do a new assessment called the Vulnerability Index Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) with the individual or family.

Based on a score from this assessment, individuals and families will be placed on queues from highest to lowest priority. Officials likened the new system, which has been used successfully around the country, to a triage situation. Providing the limited number of beds to people with the greatest need should enable staffers to help those in less dire circumstances with resources that might even avert homelessness.

To ensure time to complete the new assessments, ConnectPoints will no longer be a 24-hour service. Staffers will be working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to put people on the queue for shelter. They will be on call Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for taking messages, potential diversion activity, and problem-solving, but not for assessments for shelter, said a county press release.

Shelters will continue to pull from the existing queue over the weekends to fill beds. 
Callers after 5 p.m. will be prompted to leave a voicemail that will be returned the following day.

Anyone with questions is asked to contact ConnectPoints Program Director Rei Horst at rhorst@familyservice.us or by calling 610-696-1999, ext. 142.

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