Community Action Street Outreach and Recovery Navigator staff build relationships with people experiencing homelessness where they are — on the streets, in the woods, in all parts of rural and urban Skagit County.

Changes to Coordinated Entry
According to Skagit County Public Health, beginning February 2024, the Coordinated Entry homeless intake system will be administered by VOA (Volunteers of America), a faith-based nonprofit organization located in Everett, Wash. Details about what clients and the public can expect in the transition of Coordinated Entry will be forthcoming from Skagit County Public Health and VOA.

“We congratulate VOA on their success with the competitive grant, and we look forward to working with them and all our partners to ensure the best coordination of care for our neighbors without homes,” said Bill Henkel, Executive Director of Community Action of Skagit County.

With a staff of 100, Community Action will continue to provide a holistic set of wrap-around services to help not only people experiencing homelessness, but also those struggling to pay the bills. “We’ll still be an active participant in Coordinated Entry, and our Street Outreach and Recovery Navigator programs are growing to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness – going to where people are and building relationships with them, in all corners of the county.” Henkel said.

Noting that the key to addressing homelessness is prevention, Henkel said, “We’re also here to prevent homelessness by helping families get ahead and stretch their income with tools such as Energy Assistance, WIC and other food and nutrition programs, and adult education and employment supports.”

In addition, Community Action is preventing homelessness by building more housing people in Skagit County can afford, including the recently-opened Cascade Landing, 34 apartment homes in Burlington, and new project in development in Mount Vernon.

Community Action’s services are accessible by phone, online and at in-person sites across the county, including Resource Centers in Mount Vernon, East County, and Anacortes; Skagit Vets Connect, Energy & Utility Assistance, and other programs in Burlington; a shelter for homeless families with children in Mount Vernon; on-site resident services at several affordable housing complexes; and a daily nutritious lunch program at the Concrete Community Center. Community Action also runs the Skagit Food Distribution Center, the hub for getting most of the food distributed through all 16 local food banks and meal programs.

The Coordinated Entry system is a requirement of the US Department of Housing & Urban Development for counties to receive federal funding to address homelessness. The intent of Coordinated Entry is to provide the quickest access to the most appropriate housing to every household experiencing or at-risk of homelessness through a standardized assessment and referral process.

As Skagit County’s major provider of human services, Community Action was part of the group of local partners and county staff that helped establish and develop Skagit’s local system, beginning in 2012. Currently 16 local partner organizations that have a role in Skagit’s approach to addressing homelessness.

This year, when Skagit County government put the Coordinated Entry project out for a competitive grant cycle, Community Action partnered with Anacortes Family Center, Family Promise of Skagit Valley, and the Skagit Valley YMCA to lead a joint application.

“No one organization or group can solve homelessness,” Henkel said. “Local partnerships are key to addressing tough issues, and we have to work together across the geography of our county to increase access for the different populations facing homelessness in different ways. We look forward to actively partnering with VOA in their new role here in Skagit County.”

According to Henkel, Community Action and all 16 current Coordinated Entry partners appreciate that Skagit County has signaled it is committed to investing more resources into Coordinated Entry. In the past, Community Action and our supporters have subsidized the Coordinated Entry system.

“Sometimes it felt as if we had to rely on duct tape and glue, especially as the need and complexity of the issues deepened over the years,” Henkel said, praising Community Action’s staff and partners for their dedicated hard work. “We are glad to see a significant increase in investment in the system.”

“I worked with Community Action as part of the Coordinated Entry work group to implement the coordinated entry system,” said Tina Tate, current Executive Director of Skagit Habitat for Humanity and former head of Friendship House, one of the 16 nonprofit and government agencies that collaborate in the Coordinated Entry system. “We worked very hard to put all the requirements from Commerce in place and Community Action of Skagit County did a great job trying to meet the needs of the service providers in Skagit County while following the guidance from Commerce,” said Tate, who currently serves as a member of the Community Action governing Board of Directors.

Community Action participates on the Advisory Group to the North Star, a collaboration between county and city governments and local service providers who share a goal of creating effective care and expanding housing options for those experiencing chronic homelessness.
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