by Amelia Anderson
Is the CES the same as an SOS? especially if changes “No, but it’s the answer to an SOS,” says Tommy Newman, Director oyf Community Affairs at LA Family Housing, which started out small in 1984 providing permanent housing to a trickle of homeless families. “The CES parallels this, in that it’s a Coordinated Entry System where a family or individual can be interviewed for work and health history and input into a computer linking all social workers throughout the city and county of Los Angeles to assess and prioritize triage to the correct office or person for help. It ensures that we’re all seamlessly singing off the same sheet of music ie. same fax, same data base…and not duplicating when people move. It operates on a point system, so it also ensures that our funds treat the most chronic health issues first… those most likely to die on the street.
The need for housing exploded in the past 33 years, paralleling the meteoric rise of the real estate market and the influx of one hundred seventy-five languages into our schools. Women’s lib created greater entry into the workforce along with divorce which resulted in the equality of their presence in homeless camps for the first time in 1992. With NAFTA siphoning manufacturing jobs overseas and our returning Veterans along with our youth finding the Computer Technological Revolution has decreased the job market rather than increasing it, our homeless ranks have swelled. We had to reorganize bringing us into the 21st Century.
About six years ago, Social Workers and Health Care Professionals put their heads together and recognized the need to expand communication from their small individual office based computers to everyone throughout the city and county in order to work together to combat this problem. But government funding did not provide the luxury of thinking. So, they solicited other funds. The United Way and the Hilton Foundation provided almost ten million dollars to create the Coordinated Entry System or CES to use as a primary tool in the organization of city and county in the fight to stabilize our unplanned for and out of control homeless population. After all, we have the highest priced real estate in the country, and half of America’s homeless live right here in LA.
While in development, the full possibility of computers was realized and implemented, including accountability of feedback to and from all families and individuals at risk of homelessness. Upon completion, this system was turned over to LAHSA, the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority. Our city is drawn into eight regions called Service Provider Areas or SPA’S. The San Fernando Valley including Sunland-Tujunga and Shadow Hills is in Spa 2, along with Lakeview Terrace, Sylmar, Sun Valley, Pacoima, Mission Hills, Van Nuys, and Santa Clarita; the second largest homeless population next to skidrow.
And we encompass the largest area of 10 x 10 or 100 square miles containing a population of two million. LA Family Housing on Lankershim and currently in our own City Hall is the lead nonprofit agency providing access to getting on the CES, the first step to permanent housing…if you qualify.