Too often, unhoused families and individuals do not access services they need, simply because they aren’t aware of available services. San Francisco runs a Coordinate Entry System, required by the federal government to ensure fair distribution of resources for the homeless. But what exactly is Coordinated Entry and how does it really work?
So what is Coordinated Entry?
Coordinated Entry is the “front door” to San Francisco’s Homeless Response System, and similar systems around the country, where individuals and families facing homelessness are assessed, prioritized, and directed toward services based on their need. Coordinated Entry is required by the federal government for any city project that receives funding from certain Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants. However, San Francisco has some flexibility in deciding how its Coordinated Entry system works.
Non-profit-run Access Points scattered throughout the city run San Francisco's Coordinated Entry. These Access Points are divided into three groups: Family, Adult, and Youth (for transition aged youth).
Central City Access Point Compass Family Services 37 Grove Street
Dolores Street Community Services
2645 Mission Street
Larkin Street Youth Services 134 Golden Gate Avenue
Bayview Access Point
1641 LaSalle Avenue
Episcopal Community Services
123 10th Street (at Mission)
3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic
5688 3rd Street
Mission Access Point
2871 Mission Street
Saint Vincent dePaul Society
545 5th Street (at Bryant)
The SF LGBT Center
1800 Market Street
Swords to Plowshares
1060 Howard Street (at Russ)
Who can access coordinated entry?
Any household experiencing homelessness can visit these city Access Points. San Francisco has adopted definitions for each of the three populations above.
Each definition includes three elements:
A description of the household type (for example, in the family system, it’s one or more adults who have custody of at least one minor child, or a pregnant adult)
Their required connection to San Francisco
A definition of applicable housing/homeless status
Deciding who gets what kind of help, however, gets more complicated. Eligibility requirements for housing or shelter can be stricter than the general definitions. The city uses an algorithm to prioritize households, but it’s not static. The score a household may need to have in order to get housing may change based on the availability of housing options. Also, the questions asked during evaluation often center around sensitive subjects that can be triggering for some.
What services can be accessed through SF Coordinated Entry Access Points?
There are a few different types of resources you can access through Coordinated Entry:
Permanent Supportive Housing for families or individuals who need ongoing support services.
Housing Subsidies or Voucher-Based Housing Support that pay most of a household’s rent for a period of time.
Problem Solving, where you do not get housing, but you can get some support, for example, a bus ticket to travel to a family member who you can live with, or money to help with utility bills so that the person you are staying with will let you stay.
Emergency Shelter which includes a stay of up to 6 months in a shelter. This category also includes transitional housing which may allow for a longer, but still temporary stay.
Resources that are NOT a part of Coordinated Entry:
Low-income housing rentals, which households can apply to get through the city’s housing lottery program
Affordable housing listed San Francisco’s housing portal
Is the system working?
While Coordinated Entry is a well-intentioned effort to tackle homelessness in San Francisco, how it prioritizes families in need and the limited number of places to live leaves many waiting for months if not years for the help they need. In truth, SF is still a long way from having enough beds for those facing homelessness. The city is working to improve the Coordinated Entry process to make it more accessible and Compass’s Director of Housing Programs is helping with the redesign.
Visit our Policy Page to see more about how we’re advocating for affordable housing and services to better support the homeless families in San Francisco.
How do homeless families access Coordinated Entry?
If you and your family are facing homelessness, you can drop by any of the three family access points. There, a Housing Problem Solving Specialist will talk to you and figure out how to help. If you have questions about access points, office hours, or how to get help, you can contact Compass Family Services’ Central City Access Point at 415-644-0504 or by emailing email@example.com.