Working to end homelessness in our home town
The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to lead in the development and implementation of community strategies to prevent and end homelessness. Since 1982, we have worked to establish, maintain and assist a diverse array of service providers that serve the needs of people who are homeless. Broadly, we do that in three ways:
- Liaising with government at the local, city, state and federal levels;
- Supporting homeless service providers, and
- Advocating on behalf of the homeless.
More than 30 years of leadership
Houston experienced a major economic downturn in the 1980s, during which thousands of people lost their jobs and became homeless. Service providers and local government agencies scrambled to serve people in need, while recognizing the longer-term need to coordinate community-wide strategies to address the challenge.
At about the same time, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) McKinney-Vento Act was enacted in 1987 as our country’s first response to homelessness, designed to aid individuals and families living on the street or places not meant for human habitation by providing them with safer accommodations.
City leaders like Judge Jon Lindsey and Mayor Kathy Whitmire, along with area homeless service providers, realized that a neutral coordinating agency was needed because of the complex nature of the problem and the number and diversity of organizations, both public and private, involved in service delivery to the homeless. The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County was formed at their request in 1982. Soon thereafter the Coalition evolved to become the coordinator for Houston/Harris County homeless housing and services data and collaborative HUD applications as well as the implementer of the Homeless Management Information System. The organization was incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3) in 1988.
Programs and services for those who serve the homeless
In addition to working with government, supporting homeless service providers and advocating for the needs of the homeless, the Coalition delivers a number of focused programs and services.
The Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) is a group of people who have experienced homelessness or received homeless services who have been brought together to serve as a liaison between service providers and people who are homeless. It was formed by the Coalition in July 2010 to enhance communication between the homeless community, the Coalition and homeless service providers. It is working to improve methods of combating homelessness, eliminate barriers and provide the homeless with a voice in citywide issues involving homeless services.
Homeless Court (HC), established in 2006, is a program coordinated by the Coalition that enables homeless defendants to resolve outstanding class C misdemeanor offenses within the City of Houston’s Municipal Court system. Houston’s HC is a partnership among city courts, the Coalition, local shelters and service providers allowing homeless defendants to meet traditional sentence requirements (often fines, public work service, and/or time in jail) through service program activities such as chemical dependency meetings, computer literacy classes and job skills training. Referral are initiated by homeless service provider case managers and submitted to the Coalition.
The Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is an electronic data collection, management and reporting system managed by the Coalition. All homeless service providers funded by HUD (other than domestic violence service providers) are required to enter into HMIS all client data and services provided to those clients. This system ensures better coordination of client services by generating unduplicated counts, highlighting service delivery patterns and producing better outcomes. Over time it also provides system-wide information on the characteristics and service needs of the various homeless sub-populations.
The Homeless Services Coordinating Council (HSCC) was established in 1993 by the Coalition as a membership-driven program to assist homeless service providers. Council members meet on a monthly basis to collaborate, share information and best practices and access educational and training opportunities.
The Houston Community Voice Mail (HCVM) Program provides free voice mail service to individuals, families with children and youth experiencing homelessness, and is managed by the Coalition. Through a partnership with Springwire, the National Community Voicemail program, this initiative provides voice mail lines to more than 100 agency programs in Harris County, whose case managers in turn provide lines to their clients to access their voicemail. This program thus enables homeless persons to connect to job opportunities, housing, healthcare, information and hope for the future.
Information and Referral is a service provided by the Coalition under contract with the United Way of Greater Houston’s 2-1-1 Texas/United Way Helpline. Individuals seeking homeless assistance may dial 2-1-1 at any time on any phone and receive information and referrals to emergency shelters, food, health care, substance abuse counseling and employment or other services.
Point-In-Time (PIT) Enumeration and Needs Assessment is a program conducted by the Coalition and is required of all communities receiving HUD funding. The PIT enumeration engages more than 500 volunteers to conduct the count and survey the Houston homeless population during one night in January each year. In the spring of each year in-depth needs assessment interviews are conducted with representatives from homeless sub-populations. The goal of this program is to guide strategic changes to the homeless service system by ensuring that current information is available on the scope of homelessness in our community and the current needs and gaps in services.
Help us end homelessness!
Please join us in working to prevent and end homelessness in the greater Houston area. For more information about how you can help, visit our website at www.homelesshouston.org
The Coalition at a glance
To lead in the development and implementation of community strategies to prevent and end homelessness
- Liaise with government at the local, city, state and federal levels
- Support homeless service providers
- Advocate on behalf of the homeless
- Consumer Advisory Council
- Homeless Court
- Homeless Management Information System
- Homeless Services Coordinating Council
- Houston Community Voice Mail Program
- Information and Referral
- Point-In-Time Enumeration and Needs Assessment