Bright Spot: Brantford-Brant rapidly implements a By-Name List and Coordinated Access System despite COVID-19’s challenges

April 11, 2022 / News

A commitment to building a system informed by quality data and individual needs led the City of Brantford to rapidly and effectively implement a By-Name List and Coordinated Access System within Brantford-Brant. This blog is a part of our Bright Spot series highlighting outstanding work in ending homelessness happening across Canada.

In March 2020, the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) set the intention to introduce By-Name Lists (BNLs) province-wide and the following year, officially launched the BNL approach, requiring all Service Managers to have this data in place by December 2021.

With accelerated deadlines for the requirements set by the province and Reaching Home, Brantford-Brant worked alongside the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) and Built for Zero Canada to meet and exceed all of them. Despite the pandemic’s challenges and a departmental reorganization, Brantford-Brant was able to implement a Quality By-Name List and the Reaching Home level of Coordinated Access system all within a one-year period. Just this month, the community also announced its confirmation of Basic level of Coordinated Access!

With Ontario’s most recent announcement to include By-Name Lists as a key component of their new consolidated Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP), the work to further develop and utilize this data in communities will continue, and Brantford-Brant remains committed in the fight to end chronic homelessness.

“By-Name Lists are an effective, innovative tool that are key to reducing and ending chronic homelessness because they treat homeless people like people – not just numbers on a list. By providing real-time, actionable data about individuals experiencing homelessness and their conditions, service managers can connect them with the services they need to break the cycle of home insecurity. Municipalities have told me that the impact since implementing By-Name Lists is like night and day. I thank the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness for their leadership and advocacy to drive By-Name Lists as an approach in Ontario and across the country, and I am very proud to call them a partner in our homelessness prevention programs,” says the Hon. Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

How it Began

Before implementing the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and Coordinated Access, the community used a Housing Assistance Resource Tracking Tool (HARTT) database.

“We did have data capabilities through HARTT, however, a By-Name List, and the way that we know it now, was not something that we had or used for the purposes that we have today,” says Hanah Itner, Project Coordinator at the City of Brantford.

While there were some strengths to their existing homelessness system of care, specifically the strong and collaborative relationships with the City, there were also some drawbacks.

“Shelters predominantly worked in silos. While they worked well with the city, they didn’t often work with each other. Another limitation was data management. Shelters would fax paper forms to the city, and case management staff would be responsible for updating our database. This would often lead to delays in data entry simply from the volume of data entry alone.”

After hiring OrgCode Consulting in 2018 to complete a review of their system, there were several opportunities identified for improvement – ones that implementing a Coordinated Access system would resolve.

“It was due to the consultation report that our community sought the need to begin our Coordinated Access Journey.”

The Steps to Success

The city’s implementation approach to the Homeless Individual and Family Information System (HIFIS) and Coordinated Access was a thoughtful one, where services were broken down into 3 different phases.

“We tried to align the phases to a client’s flow to the homelessness system of care. In our first phase, we dedicated time to understanding the challenges within our system and refine the inflow processes.”

The second phase focused on case planning and diversion services. Hanah explains, “During this time, our Housing Resource Centre (HRC) had transferred over to an external agency. So, we worked expeditiously to ensure that they had HIFIS to support case-planning and their diversion planning project.”

Phase three was dedicated to outflow and prevention services, where the community focused on the By-Name List pieces, housing partnerships and stock, as well as refining matching and referrals.

“Since we’ve implemented our system, the biggest piece has been the improved collaboration between partners. With the ability to collect and share information, we’re seeing greater partnership to deliver care. We have improved data quality, and our processes are even more streamlined. We don’t have the delays we used to when we relied on paper forms because staff are entering information in real-time.”

Building Collaborative Relationships

Composed of various community organizations, the Brantford-Brant Homelessness System of Care (BHSC) provides services to people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. To ensure that each client is supported, and no one is left behind, they implemented a “no wrong door” approach.

“If a client engages with an emergency shelter or any agency associated with The Brantford-Brant Homelessness System of Care, they will be supported with a connection to our Housing Resource Centre or after-hour services.”

Three major strategies Brantford-Brant used to implement a Coordinated Access System and successfully build collaborative relationships with community partners include a shared aim, clear policies and procedures, and effective communication.

“One of the key factors that helped us to implement our Coordinated Access system was dedicating time to ensure that all agencies had a shared goal. In order to establish this, we completed activities like process mapping, where we mapped out a client’s journey through the system and talked about each step along the way,” says Hanah.

Another key strategy deployed in the city’s process was to develop clear policies and processes.

“With our committees, we discuss opportunities for refinement and growth. We ask them to share challenges so that we can explore them. In addition to this, we reflected 10 steps to create and use a By-Name List at each advisory committee meeting helped us track our progress, and staff would get excited when we completed a new step.”

Lastly, effective communication created trust between the community partners who felt like they were being heard and that the City would respond to their needs.

“It’s important to implement and acknowledge the feedback that’s provided to ensure individuals continue to contribute and to let them know they are being listened to. Being responsive to both community and system feedback has worked really well for supporting our ongoing partnerships,” says Victoria Boyle, Community Development Coordinator for the City of Brantford.

As the 30th community in Canada to confirm a Quality By-Name List, the 14th community to confirm Reaching Home Coordinated Access, and its most recent announcement confirming Basic Level of Coordinated Access earlier this month, Brantford-Brant is committed to ending chronic homelessness!

Coordinated Access policies, forms, and job aids from Brantford-Brant can be found on the BFZ-C Coordinated Access Resources page.

For more information, you can watch the community call of practice recording or download the presentation slides here.

This blog is a part of our Bright Spot series highlighting outstanding work in ending homelessness happening across Canada.

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