The Prince William Area Continuum of Care, an organization of churches, non-profits, charities and governments, recently launched the Coordinated Entry System to help residents of the Prince William area who experience a housing crisis.
The goal of the system is to provide fair and equal access to safe housing and services to the homeless, as well as to those who are in danger of becoming homeless, said Courtney Tierney, the director of the Prince William County Department of Social Services.
The new system will work by bringing together all of the organizations in the area which work to help house the homeless and prevent homelessness.
Four full-time and two part-time social services employees, funded by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, will work with all of the Continuum of Care organizations to coordinate housing and services through the Coordinated Entry System. The system will help eliminate the need for people to call providers all over the county looking for a place to stay, Tierney said. “This is a coordinated way for us to know what beds are available. We know where they are, so it’s one call, and all of that information is available.”
The system will also offer services that might include mediating with landlords for people who have eviction notices or are behind on their rent. The mediation could help people stay sheltered while they find a new place to live, Tierney said. “If they’re being evicted, maybe we can talk to the landlord. It’s not that we have all the answers, but it’s to help a person go through an assessment of what is available and what they need to do to move forward.”
The system might also help people who have been asked to leave relatives or friends’ homes and have nowhere else to go. People who are living in the woods or in their car might also find relief through the system.
Tierney said intervention through the new system might be the key to prevention. “Hopefully, it will help homelessness be brief, rare and non-reoccurring, as well as helping people before they become homeless.”
Information and referral specialists are ready to take calls at 703-792-3366. The Coordinated Entry System operates seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.