our local Homeless Management Information System
A Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is a congressionally mandated, community-wide database system which collects shelter and service use data on the homeless.
VESTA (Virtual Electronic Service Tracking Assistant) is the name of our community-based software system.
Of the other 450 Continuums in existence across the country, we are one of the very few that can claim a 100% participation rate by all providers. What this means is that every agency receiving funds and providing services participates in our data system, VESTA.
Our data is generated from 106 programs across the community and entered by 798 diligent VESTA users. The programs and users provide housing and services that encompass every corner of the homeless world: from those persons living on the streets and under bridges, through the shelter system, to permanent housing, and embracing all of the services in between.
This data allows us to design programs that meet real local need. We can identify exactly who we are serving, what their special needs are, and how best to move them out of homelessness and into stable housing. VESTA affords us the ability to develop uniform measurements and outcomes within the entire homeless system.
The treasure trove of data that VESTA affords us is the foundation of our work; in fact, it was the foundation of the Homeless to Homes plan.
A VESTA ID card is tied to every client’s HMIS record and includes all basic client information including special needs and other relevant sub-populations, as well as the client’s record within the system.
As one HUD analyst said recently, “This is the Cadillac of all data systems in the country. No other community tracks data or measures program effectiveness as well as our local continuum does.”
Central Access Point
a centralized hotline for emergency shelter
The Central Access Point (CAP) is a centralized intake system for families and individuals who are currently experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of becoming homeless. CAP employs highly skilled Intake Specialists who screen callers based on their immediacy of need and make appropriate referrals into a partner agency’s program.
Homeless families are referred to a family emergency shelter (Bethany House Services, Interfaith Hospitality Network, or the Salvation Army) or, if a victim of domestic violence, to the YWCA Domestic Violence Hotline.
Homeless individuals are referred to Catholic Worker House for single men, Shelterhouse- Esther Marie Hatton Center for Women or Bethany House for single women and young adults (18-24) are referred to Lighthouse Sheakley Center for Youth. Homeless single men in recovery can be referred to Parkway Center Transitional Housing Program.
Veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless or are already homeless can be referred to Goodwill or Talbert House for their Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families Program (SSVF).
CAP Removes Barriers to Access
Prior to the creation of CAP, a homeless mother or father with children had to call each shelter looking for a bed for the night. If the person calling was not successful in reaching anyone on the other end of the line or finding a bed for the night, then the caller had to make another call, then another, only to find out at the end of the day that no beds were available. In this case, that desperate family had to start the whole process over again the next day. This antiquated system overwhelmed homeless families and shelter staff. Now, with just one phone call to CAP, a trained intake specialist provides confidential client-friendly screening of calls and then makes a professional assessment and appropriate referral to an available shelter or agency.
CAP’s ability to connect the people in need with the services available is strengthened by the use of a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), VESTA. VESTA was one of the first HMIS in the country with a 100% participation rate among homeless service providers, a fact which affords the CAP staff the ability to utilize real time data, so that the intake specialist has the most up-to-date information about each client and each program or shelter’s availability.
our community plan for single homeless individuals
Homeless to Homes is the City and County’s comprehensive plan to end homelessness. The goal of the plan is to ensure that single homeless individuals have access to appropriate shelter facilities and comprehensive services which facilitate their movement from homelessness to permanent housing.
- Homeless to Homes Overview and Update- 11/2014
- 2010 Implementation plan
- 2009 Homeless to Homes plan
- City of Cincinnati Implementation Ordinance
- City of Cincinnati Emergency Ordinance
In 2008, Cincinnati City Council directed Strategies to End Homelessness (STEH) to develop a comprehensive plan and with the involvement of 90 key stakeholders from our civic community, the Homeless to Homes Plan was created and then adopted by Cincinnati City Council and Hamilton County in 2009.
Homeless to Homes addresses the bottleneck that exists at the entry point in our system of care; for the vast majority of homeless individuals, their homelessness was the result of an immediate crisis such as a job loss or a health problem. The system improvements called for in the plan will ensure that a short-term crisis does not turn into a long-term state of homelessness.
To implement the emergency shelter and services recommendations in the Homeless to Homes Plan, STEH and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), and the Homeless to Homes Funding Advisory Committee partnered with City Gospel Mission, Lighthouse Youth Services, Talbert House, and Shelterhouse to create the Homeless to Homes Shelter Collaborative. This collaborative will operate five new, state-of-the-art shelter facilities targeted to the specific needs and circumstances of homeless and chronically homeless individuals. With a viable framework for our community to follow, everyone involved in the effort is “on the same page” regarding how the community will advance towards ending homelessness. As a result of this unique partnership, the collaborative is recognized by the state of Ohio as a best practice model.
Improved quality of services to move individuals out of homelessness quickly. The longer a person remains homeless, the harder it is to stabilize his/her housing. Targeted services specific to the individual’s gender, age, or special needs, with reduced reliance on emergency shelter alone. Services such as case management, mental health assessment and intervention, substance abuse assessment and treatment, combined with shelter. An ambitious increase in transitional and permanent supportive housing. Recommendations that would make better use of existing funding resources.
Cincinnati remains one of the only communities in the country that has a 100% participation rate by service providers in our Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). As a result, the people developing the plan had at their fingertips real numbers of homeless people, client ages, race and gender, special needs, and other meaningful information. This data was the foundation of their work and continues to inform all planning and funding decisions.
Homeless to Homes Funding Advisory Committee
Strategies to End Homelessness and 3CDC are coordinating the collaborative funding effort. Operating funds are centralized through STEH, with allocations being determined by the Funding Advisory Committee.
The Funding Advisory Committee meets quarterly to oversee the plan’s implementation and annually to allocate collaborative funding, which is based on outcomes.
Senior level representatives from The Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, Interact for Health, The Carol Ann and Ralph V Haile, Jr./US Bank Foundation, Deaconess Associations Foundation, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble, PNC Charitable Foundation, PNC, Catholic Health Partners, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and the City of Cincinnati serve on the committee, along with Strategies to End Homelessness and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation.
Other Funding Partners include the Farmer Family Foundation, the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trust, the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Trust, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, Helen Steiner Rice Fund, the Louse Taft Semple Foundation, Hamilton County, Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Susan and Joseph Pichler, and several anonymous donors.
Homeless to Homes represents a true breakthrough for our community. It is the first time that key stakeholders are in agreement on what a model emergency shelter system should look like.
When fully operational, this new leading-edge system will enable empower homeless individuals to exit homelessness and become self-sufficient, stable, productive citizens within our community. This is our goal.
Safe & Supported
Cincinnati’s plan to prevent LGBTQ youth homelessness
After announcing selection to participate in a National LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative in April and hosting a community forum in July, Lighthouse Youth Services and Strategies to End Homelessness have partnered with a coalition of community leaders to plan how the community will address the issue of LGBTQ youth homelessness in Cincinnati and Hamilton County.