Greater Helena Area Housing First is our locally driven approach to organizing and providing housing services for people experiencing homelessness in our region. Because housing resources are limited, this process is designed to ensure that individuals and families with the highest vulnerability, service needs, and length of homelessness receive top priority in housing placement.
Please download our informational poster.
What We're Doing and Why
What is Housing First?
Housing First is a community-wide coordinated entry system that aims to connect individuals and families who are homeless—or those who are immediately at risk of becoming homeless—to housing and other necessary resources.
The goal is to rapidly respond to people experiencing homelessness by working together as a community to coordinate housing and service options to ensure homelessness remains rare, brief and non-recurring in the Greater Helena Area.
Housing First will assist with housing individuals and families experiencing homelessness as soon as possible after accessing the Greater Helena Area Housing First system.
Why Are We Doing This?
- To connect the most vulnerable people to the most appropriate housing options for their needs and circumstances
- To place people efficiently into housing programs
- To reduce homelessness by offering prevention and diversion
- To improve data collection on people’s experiences of homelessness in Helena
- To provide information on barriers experienced by at-risk populations
- Because it’s the right thing to do
Front Doors to Greater Helena Area Housing First
Housing First Front Door Process
- Individuals and families experiencing homelessness or fleeing domestic violence should be referred to these organizations.
- Staff of these organizations are trained to use triage and diversion techniques and complete a Housing First assessment, if applicable.
- If a Housing First assessment is needed, the organization will complete one and immediately refer to an appropriate emergency shelter.
- After the Housing First assessment, the individual/family may be referred to the most appropriate housing and
other community resources for their needs.
- Info for Those Seeking Help
Greater Helena Area Housing First Front Doors
Good Samaritan Ministries, 3067 N. Montana Avenue
9 a.m.-8 p.m., M-F
9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun
PureView/Healthcare for the Homeless, 533 N. Last Chance Gulch
Case Manager, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., M-F
After-hours, call PureView Health Center, (406) 457-0000.
PureView Health Center, 1930 9th Avenue
8 a.m.-5:30 p.m., M-Th
8 a.m.-5 p.m., F
Volunteers of America, 3530 Centennial Drive, Ste. 1
8 a.m.-5 p.m., M-F
The Salvation Army, 1905 Henderson
10a.m.-12p.m. and 12:45p.m.-4p.m., M-Th
9a.m.-12p.m. and 12:45p.m.-2p.m., F
Dial 2-1-1 from any phone and request front door connections for Helena (available 24/7).
Pathways to Stable Housing
If you are searching for affordable housing, PLEASE get onto BOTH our local and state public housing wait lists. Yes, these lists are long, but they often move quickly, and you can’t move up the list until you’re on it.
The Montana Board of Housing provides a housing locator service that allows you to find potential rental properties that fit your needs:
Good Samaritan Ministries has created a resource to help people help themselves find and secure housing:
Administrative Backbone Organization: United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area
Organizational Team (Get Stuff Done): Center for Mental Health, Good Samaritan Ministries, Helena Housing Authority, Lewis and Clark County, Lewis and Clark County CONNECT Consented Referral System, Montana Joining Community Forces, The Salvation Army, United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area, Volunteers of America
If you would like a presentation or more information about the Greater Helena Area Housing First system, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-442-4360.
Glossary of Terms
By-Name List (BNL): The list contains homeless individuals and families that are actively looking for housing. The list is made up of those that have completed the VI-SPDAT assessment and can be sorted or filtered accordingly. The BNL ensures that we’re working towards HUD’s criteria and benchmarks for ending Veteran and chronic homelessness.
Case Conferencing: Case conferencing is a region’s formal, planned, and structured meeting in which providers coordinate staffing assignments, provide client level updates, and ensure coordination of services. The goal of case conferencing is to provide holistic, coordinated, and integrated services across providers, and to reduce duplication. Case conferences are usually multidisciplinary, and include multiple providers from the area. Case conferences should be used to identify or clarify issues regarding a participant’s housing status and progress towards permanent housing; to assign primary Housing Navigation responsibilities; to strategize solutions; and to adjust current service plans, as necessary. Case conferencing must be documented and must follow any policies and procedures established for CES.
Case Management: Case management is defined by the Case Management Society of America as “a collaborative process of assessment, planning, facilitation, care coordination, evaluation, and advocacy for options and services” to meet individual needs. Case Management in the context of CES should be voluntary and client centered, with the goal of identifying strengths and client directed goals, while promoting “health, recognition, and well-being” (USICH, 2016). Case Managers in CES should ultimately focus on linking the client to a permanent housing resource and providing the necessary services needed to promote housing stability.
Continuums of Care (CoC): A community planning body, as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to organize and deliver housing and services for a specific geographic region; develop a long-term strategic plan for preventing and ending homelessness; and to apply for federal resources.
Coordinated Assessment: A centralized or coordinated process designed to coordinate program participant intake assessment and provision of referrals. A centralized or coordinated assessment system covers the geographic area, is easily accessed by individuals and families seeking housing or services, is well advertised, and includes a comprehensive and standardized assessment tool. (Definition from HUD Notice: CPD-17-01)
Coordinated Entry System (CES – herein, Greater Helena Area Housing First): CES is a regionally based system that connects new and existing programs into a “no-wrong-door network” by assessing the needs of heads of households experiencing literal homelessness and linking them with the most appropriate housing and services to end their homelessness. The goal of the CES is to streamline processes through which communities assess, house, and retain individuals who are homeless; to ensure all of our homeless neighbors are known and supported; to target and maximize limited housing resources; and comply with the federal mandate to adopt a standardized intake and coordinated assessment process for housing. The essential components of CES are: 1) as system that is low-barrier and easy to access; 2) a system that identifies and assesses people’s needs; and 3) a system that prioritizes and matches housing resources based on those needs.
Crisis Housing: Crisis Housing means any facility, the primary purpose of which is to provide temporary, emergency shelter for the homeless.
Data: Consistent process for gathering information, tracking/entering data into a database like HMIS or CONNECT, sharing information across programs, data protections to keep sensitive information secure.
Diversion: Diversion relies on a formally trained “diversion specialist” to facilitate a conversation about safe alternatives to shelter, outside the homeless system, and often includes facilitating connection between a person in crisis and their support system through mediation/conflict resolution. Diversion is an approach, not a program. The approach focuses on a person’s strengths and supports their process of identifying the resources available to them to help resolve their housing crisis.
Emergency Solutions Grant: A program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide emergency shelter to homeless individuals and families living on the street; rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families; and prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless.
Front Door: An access point where a participant can meet with an intake professional in person or via phone. In the Greater Helena Area, this is Volunteers of America, The Salvation Army, Good Samaritan Ministries, PureView Health Center, Healthcare for the Homeless, and 2-1-1.
HCV: Housing Choice Voucher, a.k.a. Section 8.
Homeless: An individual who belongs to one of the following categories. The System prioritizes categories 1 and 4.
Category 1: An individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, meaning:
a. An individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or camping ground; or
b. An individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately-operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state, or local government programs for low-income individuals); or
c. An individual who is exiting an institution where he or she resided for 90 days or less and who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering that institution.
Category 2: Individuals and families who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence
Category 3: Unaccompanied youth and families with children and youth who are defined as homeless under other federal statutes who do not otherwise qualify as homeless under this definition; or
Category 4: Any individual or family who:
a. Is fleeing, or is attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions that relate to violence against the individual or a family member, including a child, that has either taken place within the individual’s or family’s primary nighttime residence or has made the individual or family afraid to return to their primary nighttime residence; and
b. Has no other residence; and
c. Lacks the resources or support networks, e.g., family, friends, and faith- based or other social networks, to obtain other permanent housing.
Housing First: Housing First is an approach that offers permanent housing as quickly as possible for people experiencing homelessness, particularly for people with long histories of homelessness and co-occurring health challenges, while providing the supportive services people need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness. The provider ensures that the supportive services that program participants need or want in order to achieve permanent housing, including links to mainstream programs or partner agencies (i.e. mental health services, substance abuse treatment, medical services, child care, etc.). Income, sobriety and/or participation in treatment or other services are voluntary and are not required as a condition for housing.
Housing Navigation: Housing Navigation is the process by which homeless clients that have entered the CES system are provided ongoing engagement, document collection, and “light” case management services in order to facilitate a match to an appropriate housing resource. In the context of CES, outreach workers, case managers, and other homeless service providers may provide housing navigation assistance.
Housing Navigator(s): Housing Navigator is the client’s primary point of contact in CES, often a social worker, case manager, outreach worker, or volunteer. Some CoCs have implemented a Housing Navigator function to ensure efficient and effective enrollment and subsequent movement of program participants from crisis response to stable housing. Specific staff duties might vary, but a Housing Navigator can perform a variety of functions to reduce the time it takes persons in crisis to obtain housing.
Outreach Coordination: The planning and ongoing coordination of outreach activities in a region. This should include a multi-disciplinary approach that ensures adequate geographic coverage and the use of best practices to outreach.
Permanent Housing (PH): Community-based housing without a designated length of stay, which includes both Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Rapid Rehousing (RRH). Examples of permanent housing include, but are not limited to, a house or apartment with a month-to-month or annual lease term or home ownership.
Prevention: An approach that focuses on preventing homelessness by providing assistance to households that otherwise would become homeless and end up in a shelter or on the streets.
Rapid Rehousing (RRH): A support intervention that uses a combination of case management, Housing Navigation, and short to medium term financial assistance to assist mid-range acuity homeless households identify and stabilize in tenant-based, scattered site, permanent housing.
S+C: Shelter Plus Care – More commonly known as “Permanent Supportive Housing.”
SSVF: Supportive Services for Veteran Families
Standardized Access: Goals of coordinated entry system are for the system to be easily accessible and welcoming to the wide range of people who may experience a housing crisis in service areas.
TH: Transitional Housing
The 4 A’s of CES: Access, Assess, Assign and Accountability
Transition Age Youth (TAY): An individual between the ages of 16 and 24 years. Please note that while the Youth Coordinated Entry System serves youth and young adults, ages 16-24, for the purposes for Rapid Rehousing, youth must be at least 18 years old to sign a lease. Therefore, for the program area of Rapid Rehousing, TAY are defined as youth ages 18-24.
U.S. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): A U.S. government agency created in 1965 to support community development and home ownership.
VA: Veteran Affairs
VASH Voucher: Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Voucher
VI- SPDAT: Vulnerability Index – Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool. An evidence-based assessment tool that combines the Vulnerability Index (VI) to determine the chronicity and medical vulnerability of homeless individuals, and the Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool to help service providers allocate resources in a logical, targeted way.