KENNEWICK -- A new one-stop intake program for Tri-Citians who need housing was overwhelmed by the number of families seeking help.
The 3-month-old Coordinated Entry System, operated by Benton-Franklin Human Services, helped 700 households since it opened in February. More than 100 families came the first four days.
"We did not anticipate that we would have the number of people that we did," said Tracy Diaz, the Human Services deputy administrator.
Case managers screen families for 42 Tri-City housing programs, no matter which agency or nonprofit offers the program, Diaz said.
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The Coordinated Entry System also directly provides emergency housing services including one-time rental payment help for families facing eviction and motel vouchers.
Families are referred to the program that best suits their situation, she said. If that does not work, a case manager can refer the family to the next best program without having to start over.
They can screen 12 families a day, and are scheduling appointments instead of allowing walk-ins because people were lining up at 6 a.m. to make sure they were one of the first to be interviewed, Diaz said.
The intake center, at 500 N. Morain St. in Kennewick, is now open until 7 p.m. Wednesdays and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays to be able to help working families, Diaz said.
Having one place to go to determine housing eligibility is something Community Action Connections tried to do, but the nonprofit was able only to help with programs it administered, said Judith Gidley, CAC executive director.
The new program has helped reduce wait time for clients and cut down on them having to go all over to try to find the right program.
Having eviction prevention done through the Coordinated Entry System, not CAC, frees up CAC staff to work more with families, Gidley said.
The department has tightened the eligibility for emergency housing services because of the high demand. They provided about $100,000 of direct service to 140 Tri-City families in the first three months. But the overall budget for the program for this year is just $200,000.