What is the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County?

The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide leadership in the development, advocacy, and coordination of community strategies to prevent and end homelessness.

The Coalition was established in 1982, incorporated as a 501(c) 3 in 1988, and has evolved to be the lead agency coordinating the community response to homelessness in Houston. Under the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act passed in 2009, an entire community, rather than individual service providers, must demonstrate success in preventing and reducing homelessness. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) named Houston as a priority community. This designation recognizes the great need to transform Houston’s existing homeless service system and the tremendous opportunity to make significant advances due to the commitment of homeless service agencies and the contributions of key community stakeholders.

Although the Coalition does not provide any direct services to clients, it serves as the backbone organization to many other groups that do. The Coalition serves those who serve the homeless through research, project management, system capacity building, and advocacy.

Today, the major project of the Coalition is serving as lead agency for the Houston/Harris County Continuum of Care (CoC). This work creates an improved homeless service system that more effectively provides services, support, and housing to all sub-populations within the Houston area’s homeless community, with a primary focus on moving individuals and families out of homelessness.

The ultimate goal of the Houston/Harris County CoC is a homeless services system that achieves reduction in new instance of, length of, and returns to homelessness, and meets the varying needs of homeless sub-populations such as unaccompanied youth, veterans, and families with children.

How is the Coalition working to prevent and end homelessness?

The Coalition works to prevent and end homelessness through four programs:

  • Research
  • Project Management
  • System Capacity Building
  • Public Policy

The Coalition works to create the system in which area homeless service providers, government agencies, and other community partners can provide efficient and unduplicated services to the Houston area homeless community.

The largest project of the Coalition is serving as lead agency to the Houston/Harris County Continuum of Care (CoC). Other projects include: Homeless Court, the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), the annual Houston Homeless Count, and Community Voice Mail.

The Coalition also partners with the United Way 2-1-1 Help Line to provide information and referral services, both for homeless service providers and homeless individuals.

What is the HMIS?

The HMIS (short for Homeless Management Information System) is a computerized data collection tool specifically designed to capture client-level, system-wide information over time on the characteristics and services needs of men, women and children experiencing homelessness. HMIS allows the aggregation of client-level data across homeless service agencies to generate unduplicated counts and service patterns of clients served.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) National Data and Technical Standards establish baseline standards for participation, data collection, privacy and security. Implementation of HMIS is a requirement for receipt of HUD McKinney-Vento funding.

The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County/Fort Bend County area is the local HMIS lead agency.

Click here for more information on the HMIS.

What is the CoC Provider Forum?

Under Continuum of Care (CoC) regulations, decision makers of homeless service providers are expected to be involved in discussions and recommendations made to the Steering Committee. The CoC Steering Committee approved the creation of quarterly CoC Provider Forums where these discussions can take place. Click here for more information.

What is the Lunch & Learn Series?

For providers looking for content similar to what was provided at the Homeless Services Coordinating Council, the Coalition for the Homeless offers a Lunch & Learn series. The Lunch & Learn series aims to educate local service agency staff on topics relevant to homelessness in our community as well as to provide networking opportunities.

For more information on the Lunch & Learn series and how to RSVP, click here or email Gary Grier at ggrier@homelesshouston.org.

What is Homeless Court?

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. Referrals are initiated by homeless service provider case managers and submitted to the Coalition.

Click here from more information.

What is the Consumer Input Forum?

The Consumer Input Forum is a quarterly meeting where currently and formerly homeless individuals can meet and learn more about updates and improvements that are being made to the homeless service delivery system in Houston, as well as provide insight and firsthand knowledge from their experiences, which are used to make recommendations to the CoC Steering Committee.

What is the annual Houston Homeless Count and Needs Assessment?

The annual Houston Homeless Count is a project managed by the Coalition and is required of all communities receiving HUD funding. The annual Houston Homeless Count engages more than 500 volunteers to conduct the count and survey our community’s homeless population during one night in January each year. In the spring every one to two years, 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.

Click here  from more information.

How can organizations that provide services to the homeless get connected with the Coalition?

The best way for homeless service agencies to get connected to the Coalition is by signing up for our e-newsletter service which provides Coalition-sponsored education and networking opportunities, advocacy updates, and information on the Houston/Harris County Continuum of Care (CoC). Click here to sign up for our newsletters.

Agencies can also get connected with CoC workgroups, which focus on specific homeless sub-populations.

Click here for more information on CoC Workgroups.

How can I help?

Homelessness remains an enormous challenge, but it’s one we believe can be solved with your help. The major ways that you can help are by donating money, advocating for the homeless and performing volunteer service.

What is the Houston/Harris County Continuum of Care (CoC)?

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “A Continuum of Care (CoC) is a regional or local planning body that coordinates housing and services funding for homeless families and individuals.” This concept is based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirements.

The Houston/Harris County CoC encompasses all of Houston, Harris County and Fort Bend County, and it serves two main purposes:

  • To develop a long term strategic plan and manage a year-round planning effort that addresses:
    • The identified needs of homeless individuals and households
    • The availability and accessibility of existing housing and services; and
    • The opportunities for linkages with mainstream housing and services resources.
  • To prepare an application of McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act Competitive grants.


What is the role of the Coalition in the Houston/Harris County Continuum of Care (CoC)?

The Coalition serves as lead agency for the Houston/Harris County CoC. The chief duties of the lead agency include:

  • Staffing the CoC Steering Committee
  • Producing planning materials
  • Coordinating any needs/gaps assessments
  • Collecting and reporting performance data
  • Monitoring program performance
  • Coordinating resources
  • Integrating activities and facilitating collaboration
  • Preparing the collaborative application for CoC funds
  • Building awareness
  • Recruiting stakeholders
  • Managing the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)