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Connection Point Enhanced to Serve Homeless and At-Risk Households More Effectively

Individuals and families experiencing homelessness or those at-risk can now access the right services they need more easily. Connection Point of Virginia Beach (227-5932), the city's referral center for emergency housing assistance, has been enhanced to streamline and standardize the way citizens access the homeless response system in Virginia Beach.

"Connection Point now uses a coordinated assessment and housing-focused approach to help prevent and end homelessness for the most vulnerable in Virginia Beach," says Pamela Shine, Homeless Programs Coordinator with the City of Virginia Beach Department of Housing & Neighborhood Preservation. "City agencies and our nonprofit partners are working even more closely together to share information on what resources they have available and screening households for these programs in a consistent manner."

Connection Point was a step forward in improving the homeless response system when it launched in 2011. Citizens were able to call one number to receive information on available resources and, after an initial eligibility screening, were referred to appropriate agencies for assistance. However, when households contacted agencies, not only would they be screened again, and multiple times, but each agency used a different process.

Now, when citizens call Connection Point, they are screened one time. Depending on the level of need, based on an evidence-based assessment tool, citizens at risk of becoming homeless may be connected to housing counseling and financial assistance programs to prevent homelessness. Homeless families and individuals are referred to organizations that have available shelter space or housing programs. Partner agencies can access the same eligibility information for the household so they do not have to be re-screened.

In addition to the call center, citizens can also access Connection Point at four host sites:

The call center and all of the host sites use the same process for screening citizens for eligibility.

"This is a real game changer for how we serve families and individuals experiencing a housing crisis. This coordinated effort will help ensure that the citizens who need the resources the most, get connected to the right resources they need," says Shine. "Not only should these improvements achieve better results for preventing and ending homelessness, but we can also ensure resources are being used more effectively. No other city in Hampton Roads has implemented a similar process. Virginia Beach is leading the way on this effort."