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Mayor Walsh announces vendor for homeless coordinated access system

February 19, 2016

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

Green River to build platform to help connect homeless with housing. 

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced today that the City has selected Green River as the vendor to create a new Coordinated Access platform to streamline Boston's approach to helping homeless individuals access housing and services.  This technology is a key deliverable on the Walsh Administration's Action Plan To End Chronic Homelessness Among Individuals in Boston. The federal government defines a person experiencing chronic homelessness as an individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

Green River, a technology firm based in Brattleboro, VT and Cambridge, MA, has been tasked with building a web-based application that will provide a unified site where housing providers can share available opportunities, such as housing units, programs, and vouchers, and will enable housing navigators to easily suggest and communicate those opportunities to homeless individuals.  The company was selected from a pool of nine potential providers who responded to a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the City in November.

"Boston has a phenomenal network of providers, staffed by hardworking people who dedicate their lives to our city, and now we have the opportunity to build on their work to better serve Boston's homeless individuals," said Mayor Walsh. "Launching this new, innovative system will give us another tool to reach our goal to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2018."

"Green River is honored to be a part of Boston's revolutionary effort to redefine homelessness as something other than a state of being," said Michael Knapp, CEO of Green River. "This project is so clearly in line with our desire to use technology to make effective, positive change in the world.  We look forward to using our software development and analytics expertise to help Boston end chronic homelessness."

Currently, subsidized housing resources and data about Boston's homeless individuals are scattered across many different agencies and systems, and the process to access this information can be difficult to navigate.  

The new system will be designed to be simple to use, and will integrate these disparate data sources and resources.  The Coordinated Access System (CAS) will provide an easy-to-use interface for housing providers and staff to input information about available housing units and assistance programs.  By streamlining information in a way that accounts for the unique needs and vulnerabilities of homeless individuals, the new system will make it possible for people with the highest barriers to stability to find housing with the appropriate supports much more efficiently.  

The CAS will include a tool for housing navigators to match at-risk and chronically homeless people with well-matched housing options.  In addition, the platform will have a mechanism to notify caseworkers, providers, and clients which options have been suggested and a simple means for those offers to be accepted or rejected.

To ensure the system works as productively as possible, Green River staff, including user experience designers, interface developers, and systems engineers, will collaborate closely with the Boston providers and City of Boston staff to understand their workflows and processes, and to iteratively design and fine tune the critical aspects of the application.

A pilot iteration of the application is expected to launch in April 2016, with continued refinements to the tool to follow.