One-stop housing program helps Benton, Franklin county homeless

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 16, 2014 

People in Benton and Franklin counties who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless now can seek help through a one-stop intake program.

The Coordinated Entry System is operated by Benton-Franklin Human Services, with staffers providing screening and processing for about 40 housing programs run by organizations from the bicounty Human Services to Community Action Connections and Lourdes Counseling Center.

"It's a lot more efficient," said Tracy Diaz, the Human Services deputy administrator.

Steve Gaulke, executive director of Therapeutic Innovations and Recovery, a day shelter in Kennewick, agreed. "There are so many housing providers with so many different criteria" and people would be running around between them, Gaulke told the Herald. "Now people can make one stop and they're able to see the different resources and what they qualify for."

Counties need to have coordinated entry programs in place by the end of the year under a federal mandate through the state, Diaz said.

Last year, the annual point-in-time count found 243 people in Benton and Franklin counties who were considered homeless, meaning they were living on the street, in a shelter or in transitional housing. That didn't include others without a stable place to live, including those "couch surfing" from one person's home to another.

The local Coordinated Entry System has gotten a strong response since it opened last week, Diaz said. The program for now is operating out of the Human Services office at the Benton-Franklin Health District in Kennewick.

But it's to move in the coming months to a site on North Morain Street in Kennewick that also will hold the bicounty Crisis Response Unit. A lease recently was approved by commissioners from both counties.

The Coordinated Entry System takes walk-ins with emergency housing issues -- such as those who are homeless or face eviction -- from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. There are 12 slots each morning.

Help also is available from 1 to 4:30 p.m. those days by appointment.

When the program moves to the other building, the plan is to add an evening time once a week and also open on Saturday mornings, Diaz said.

People are encouraged to call ahead for a pre-screening so they know what documents to bring. To make an appointment or be prescreened, call 783-5284.

The Human Services office is at 7102 W. Okanogan Place, Suite 201, near the Benton County Justice Center.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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