Coordinated Access Guide for Homelessness

Coordinated access provides communities with a consistent way to provide housing and related services to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Core components of a strong coordinated access system include:

  • A Housing First approach
  • Real-time data about the supply of and demand for housing resources
  • A streamlined service delivery approach with access points to service, a standardized workflow for triage and assessment, prioritization, and vacancy matching and referral

Goals of the Coordinated Access Guide

The Coordinated Access Guide outlines the process and management of coordinated access in Niagara. The goals of the guide are to:

  • Produce standards for the Coordinated Access System in Niagara
  • Establish community standards and expectations for Niagara Region's homelessness response
  • Outline priorities and processes for homelessness response
  • Ensure transparency between service agencies, the community, and individuals and families experiencing homelessness in our community

Coordinated Access Guide

Download the full PDF version of the Coordinated Access Guide.

Housing First approach

Housing First is a philosophy that guides our homelessness support system and states that housing is a basic right for all humans. It is a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness.

The approach focuses on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing and providing more supports and services as needed.

The five core principles of Housing First include:

  • Immediate access to permanent housing with no housing readiness requirements
  • Consumer choice and self determination
  • Recovery orientation
  • Individualized and client-driven supports
  • Social and community integration


  • Coordinated Access in Niagara

    The Niagara Region Coordinated Access System is designed to organize community-level responses to homelessness. Individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis are connected to appropriate supports through a 'no wrong door' approach. Once connected, the trained frontline workers use the skills and the tools needed to collect information and match to available housing resources.

    The launch of Niagara's Housing and Homelessness Action Plan in 2014 brought together community partners to develop and improve a 'no wrong door' approach to housing and support services available across the region. When the plan was updated in 2019, Niagara's Homeless-Serving System focused these efforts on the development of a By-Name List and Coordinated Access to strengthen this approach and further streamline the housing process.

    Niagara also joined Built for Zero Canada in 2019. Built for Zero is a structured movement that supports communities with reaching quality, real-time data on a By-Name List as a key milestone toward ending homelessness. Niagara's By-Name List is a real-time list of all known people experiencing homelessness across the region. It includes data points that provide an understanding of homeless inflows and outflows at a system level.

    In June 2020, Niagara championed the use of a COVID-19 isolation space and a housing-focused shelter pilot as pathways to housing, and to further develop Coordinated Access prioritization and matching procedures. These efforts informed how the By-Name List is used to support Coordinated Access. For example, standard prioritization criteria were used at the isolation space to:

    • Protect those most vulnerable from contracting COVID-19
    • Maximize housing resources in the Home for Good and Housing First Intensive Case Management programs
    • Remain resolutely focused on solving chronic homelessness.

    Niagara's Homeless-Serving System is dedicated to improving Coordinated Access policy and procedure on an ongoing basis and will continue to identify areas for improvement and growth through various system improvements and the implementation of best practice interventions.

  • Housing and Homelessness Action Plan

    Niagara's Housing and Homelessness Action Plan provides a framework for integrated local planning to address local need for affordable housing and the coordination of homelessness and related support services.

    The plan supports alignment of local actions with Built for Zero Canada, including creating with partners a common, system-wide measurable aim statement to reach a functional zero end to chronic homelessness and the development and use of co-ordinated access policy and procedures.

    Specific actions related to Coordinated Access outlined in the plan include:

    • Developing a By-Name List and Coordinated Access policy and procedure to connect people who don't have a home to appropriate housing in a more streamlined and coordinated way
    • Maintaining a current list of individuals and families who do not have a home and their housing needs, and a current list of available housing solutions for the people who do not have a home
    • Identifying community priority populations and applying consistent criteria to ensure fairness and consistency in the housing process
    • Increasing access to low-barrier housing and supports for those experiencing chronic homelessness, especially for those experiencing developmental disability, mental health issues, and / or addictions. This includes service models such as assertive street outreach, housing-focused shelter, Housing First, Bridge Housing and permanent supportive housing that facilitate sustainable exits from homelessness to housing.
    • Exploring opportunities to shift system resources away from emergency homelessness services toward prevention services and housing with supports, in alignment with best practices for homeless serving systems and a Housing First approach

    All 75 actions outlined in the plan support the vision that every person in Niagara has an affordable, suitable and adequate home to provide the foundation to secure employment, raise a family and build strong communities.

    Working to achieve this vision will help reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness, increase the number of people experiencing housing stability, and make progress toward achieving a functional zero end to chronic homelessness and an end to all homelessness in Niagara.

  • Built for Zero Canada

    Built for Zero Canada is a national change effort helping a core group of leading communities end chronic and veteran homelessness - a first step to ending all homelessness in Canada.

    Built for Zero's structured, data-driven approach focuses on:

    • Creating a sense of urgency
    • Optimizing local homeless-serving systems
    • Accelerating the adoption of proven practices
    • Driving continuous improvement

    A first step in building system capacity to end homelessness is the development of real-time data on a By-Name List. Without one, Niagara would not be able to reliably measure reductions in homelessness or assess whether efforts are making an impact. A By-Name List also tracks a person's movement through the homeless-serving system to housing outcomes and is an essential tool for coordinating access to housing resources.

    Coordinated Access is a central piece of designing and improving a system that is 'built for zero' or built to support an end to homelessness. For example, Coordinated Access ensures that local systems get the most out of limited resources, rapidly and effectively preventing and ending the homelessness of their neighbours in the greatest need.

    Review Niagara's progress towards functional zero chronic and veteran homelessness.

Coordinated Access system overview

Coordinated Access is an emerging approach that helps communities organize their response to homelessness and improve outcomes with intentional housing and supports allocation. Coordinated Access includes:

  • Community access points - Agencies or program staff that have regular contact with people who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Access points are trained assessors. They will add individuals and families to the By-Name List, support them in resolving their homelessness, and finding and securing housing
  • Common intake / assessment - Use of a common consent form, intake processes and assessment tool will ensure that processes are the same across the system
  • By-Name List - A real-time, up-to-date list of all people known to be experiencing homelessness. Contains demographics and information about housing need.
  • Access to housing and supports - Agencies have dedicated housing and support resources to service individuals and families on the By-Name List. Vacancies will be filled using the By-Name List based on level of need and locally defined priorities.
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