Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Continuum of Care (CoC)?

    The Boise City/Ada County Continuum of Care (CoC) is the system in Ada County designed to serve persons experiencing homelessness or those at imminent risk of homelessness. If you are experiencing homelessness, the CoC coordinates getting you re-housed.

    The CoC includes a wide-range of housing and service providers, from prevention to emergency shelter to permanent housing, and seeks to ensure homelessness is prevented whenever possible, and is otherwise a rare, brief, and one-time experience.

    The CoC is guided by federal regulations and priorities plus local needs and strategies. The City of Boise serves as the lead agency for the CoC.

  • What is Our Path Home?

    Our Path Home is the CoC’s coordinated entry system. Over 30 partner agencies in Ada County participate to provide a central location and coordinated response to households experiencing homelessness:

    • Access: one front door to find permanent housing
    • Assessment: one assessment to determine needs and strengths and begin a housing plan
    • Assignment: one list for all of Ada County, designed to serve the most vulnerable first

    Our Path Home is a single point of entry to access the permanent housing interventions offered through the CoC, whereby persons experiencing homelessness are prioritized based on the length of time experiencing homelessness and the severity of their service needs. In this way, we can preserve the most intense interventions offered by the CoC for those that need it most and help resolve housing instability for those with fewer barriers using mainstream resources or the household’s own resources and strengths.

    Partner agencies of Our Path Home, including those funded by the CoC, no longer maintain their own waitlists, and services are no longer provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. When a partner agency has a program opening available for a housing intervention, Our Path Home refers the household at the top of the queue, and the partner agencies have agreed to accept that referral and to work with the household to overcome their barriers to housing.

  • What is HMIS?

    HMIS is the CoC’s Homeless Management Information System. The system provides unduplicated data of all persons experiencing homelessness in Ada County, and federal regulations require CoCs to maintain such a system. We use the data from HMIS to perform administrative functions, to coordinate care, for research and evaluation to improve our response to homelessness, and for functions related to payment and reimbursement for services.

    Our CoC does not have 100% bed-coverage; in other words, not all providers enter data into our HMIS. This is an issue we continue to work toward resolving so that we have as full of a picture of homelessness as possible.

  • What is homelessness prevention?

    Prevention assistance, in perhaps its most recognizable and simple form, provides financial assistance (such as rental or utility assistance) and support services to keep people housed and avoid eviction or homelessness. However, prevention activities also include discharge policies (from hospitals and jails), tenant-landlord mediation, housing counseling, and legal assistance, among others. The number of people at risk of homelessness is greater than the number of people that experience literal homelessness; therefore, the challenge becomes how to identify and provide the right dose of services to those at imminent risk of literal homelessness.

    Diversion is a type of prevention strategy that tries to preserve the current housing for those who may be seeking emergency shelter to remain safely, appropriately, and stably housed or otherwise make immediate alternative arrangements to avoid a shelter stay. Successful diversion strategies begin with a problem-solving, strengths-based conversation that asks something like: “what would resolve your current housing crisis?” instead of: “what are you eligible for and which shelter has an open bed?”

    The goal of prevention (and diversion) is housing stability, and to reduce the number of entries into homelessness, thereby conserving and targeting resources toward those who need it most.

  • What is emergency shelter?

    Emergency shelter is intended to provide a safe place to stay for persons facing a housing crisis who would otherwise be living on the street or other places not meant for human habitation. Entry into the emergency shelter system should be low barrier and anti-discriminatory. Services provided in the shelter should focus on those necessary to secure housing. The length of stay in shelter should be as short as possible and the exit to permanent housing as fast as possible.

    The Boise Rescue Mission, Interfaith Sanctuary, and the Women’s and Children’s Alliance operate the shelter beds available in Ada County. Hays House is a 24-shelter for runaway and homeless youth.

  • How many people experience homelessness in Ada County?

    This number, as you can imagine, changes all the time. The best way to ascertain this figure is to triangulate three data points. Here is what we know:

    • In May 2017, the CoC launched coordinated entry. In its first year, Our Path Home conducted assessments with 674 households. That number has since grown well beyond 1,000 completed assessments. About 200 families with children and 400 single adults (or couples without children) are on the queue at any given time.
    • Every year, the CoC conducts a one-night count of anyone we can find (in shelter or on the street) experiencing homelessness in Ada County. Since 2009, this number is in the range of 675-875 people, from a low of 694 in 2013 to a high of 872 in 2010. Last year’s Point-In-Time count data can be found here.
    • In calendar year 2017, the CoC’s Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) documented 2,072 people having had experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Our 2017 HMIS report can be found here.
  • What is Housing First?

    Imagine trying to create a stable life without a home or trying to create the stability necessary to maintain housing if you are living in a shelter or on the street. Housing First is an approach to solving homelessness that emphasizes the utmost importance of having permanent housing – a place to call home. When we use a Housing First approach, persons experiencing homelessness are first housed, and then engaged to participate in the help they may need to improve their health and well-being.

    Housing First does not mean “housing only.” However, Housing First stems from the premise that alongside any intervention, must come housing. Once housed, people need to be connected to the supports they need to prevent further episodes of homelessness.

  • What are the solutions? What ends homelessness?

    Housing is the solution. Housing ends homelessness. The formula is simple: housing + rental assistance + support services = home.

    Rental assistance helps make housing affordable, and targeted and individualized support services help people keep their housing long-term. These supports should be delivered by way of an evidence-based intervention, like Rapid Re-Housing or Permanent Supportive Housing. The CoC’s emergency overnight shelters respond to the night-by-night crisis; the challenge is to expand the availability of the three components needed to achieve permanent housing:

    • Housing
    • Rental assistance
    • Support services
  • What about drugs and alcohol?

    Persons with substance use disorders are in various stages of recovery. The CoC uses harm-reduction techniques to lessen the negative consequences associated with alcohol or substance misuse. For some people, this means they are abstaining from substances. For others, this means we are working with them to reduce use to a responsible level.

  • What resources are available?

    CoC funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development bring in about $1 million annually for homeless service programs and projects. Other federal funds, such as Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, City of Boise general funds, and private and corporate philanthropy also support homeless service interventions.

    The CoC connects persons experiencing homelessness to mainstream benefits made available through the Department of Health and Welfare, Department of Labor, social security, school districts, and others.

  • What does chronically homeless mean?

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines chronic homelessness in technical terms. The spirit of the definition is individuals or families with lengthy and persistent histories of homelessness who also have a disability.

    A study published by Boise State University in 2016 showed that it costs, on average, $53,460 per person per year to leave people on the street ($5.3 million per 100 people) – costs incurred through emergency medical care, the criminal justice system, and emergency shelter. Conversely, providing on-going permanent housing with services is estimated to cost $16,830 per person ($1.6 million per 100 people).

  • What is Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)?

    Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) programs provide a permanent rental subsidy and support services for people with multiple and significant barriers to housing stability. The amount of assistance is not time-limited and is delivered through individualized case management. PSH is cost-effective and reduces the cost burdens placed on other systems, such as hospitals and jails.

  • What is Rapid Re-Housing (RRH)?

    Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) programs provide rental assistance and support services to move persons experiencing homelessness into permanent housing as quickly as possible and keep them there. Strategies such as progressive engagement ensure the level of assistance is “just enough” of what a household needs to remain housed using stability metrics to determine when a program participant can successfully take on and maintain rental payments. RRH is less expensive than other housing interventions and has demonstrated effectiveness among persons experiencing homelessness that are often categorized as difficult to serve.

  • What does the research say?

    The speed with which the CoC responds to a housing crisis matters. Homelessness is traumatic, and trauma disrupts the development of the brain, particularly for children age 5 and under.

    The more a child experiences Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), the more at-risk they are for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide. Further, studies show a significant association between the number of ACES in people currently experiencing homelessness and those with an experience of homelessness sometime over the course of their life. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports policies to prevent ACES, including those that focus on safe, affordable housing.  

    For more information, start here and here.

  • What is New Path Community Housing?

    New Path will open in November 2018 and is a 41-unit apartment community designed to serve Ada County residents experiencing chronic homelessness with significant and multiple barriers to housing. The units come furnished and there is a community room with a full kitchen, computer lab, laundry areas and recreational space. 

    New Path will have an onsite property manager, and several staff employed by Terry Reilly Health Services and CATCH will work on-site during the week, including a social worker, case manager, 2 peer specialists, a registered nurse, and a housing specialist. These staff will provide support services to residents such as resolution of tenant-landlord issues, case management, mental health and substance use treatment, job counseling, and coordination of care.

    By providing such support, the CoC’s goals for New Path include:

    • Reducing the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in Ada County
    • Providing a safe place to live that offers evidence-based, effective support services to engage residents and help them achieve their personal wellness goals 
    • Reducing and preventing criminal justice system involvement
    • Reducing the use of the emergency medical services system
    • Increasing and strengthening connections to peers and the community at-large

    Low-Income Tax Credits, funding from the federal HOME program and City of Boise general funds provided for debt-free construction. For the first time, the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority provided rental assistance by way of project-based vouchers, and the county and hospital systems are funding the supportive services.

  • What projects is the CoC working on and where are additional resources needed?

    1. Family homelessness: In January 2019, the CoC will launch a campaign to end family homelessness. Roughly $4500 ends homelessness for one family. Stay tuned! More information coming soon.
    2. Veteran homelessness: The CoC is pursuing a tax credit funded permanent supportive housing project for veterans. Learn more about the project and donate here.
  • How can I help?

    The CoC envisions a system wherein every person experiencing homelessness finds home. We know that, simply put, housing ends homelessness. Yes, the issue is complex. But that complexity should not delay our response, particularly when we have a framework of solutions to work within.  

    The CoC currently operates a model that includes a set of evidence-based practices. We have decent data and are positioned to make data-driven decisions. We are monitoring program performance and system outcomes closer than we ever have. We have formed an unprecedented collaboration.

    And yet, we have work to do. We need to improve how we approach prevention. We need to expand street outreach. We need to intervene earlier and faster on behalf of children. We need to create permanent supportive housing inventory and respond compassionately to people experiencing long-term and persistent homelessness.

    For households experiencing homelessness, the crisis is critical and immediate. It is now. Let’s not wait for the elusive cure-all when we have a functioning intervention model. We can’t afford to delay, and we don’t need to delay: we know enough about what works to get things done and to do better.   

    Call to Action:

    • Invest. The money we compete for at the federal level is not enough to solve the problem.
    • Advocate. Familiarize yourself with the information provided in these FAQs, and with the work of the CoC. To join the CoC and/or to receive our updates, contact the CoC Program Manager.
    • Schedule a tour. Our Path Home opened a new, dedicated space in Fall 2018.
    • Dedicate rental units to the CoC. To learn more, contact the CoC’s Landlord Relationship Manager.