Community Service Agencies

Smart Path to Housing and Health is a project of the local Continuum of Care, the Homeless Action Partnership. As the county’s Coordinated Entry System, Smart Path is designed to streamline access to housing and services for all people experiencing homelessness. Homeless individuals and families receive uniform assessments at a variety of easy to access locations, and scarce housing resources are prioritized based on medical and social vulnerability. All people will also be linked immediately to available non-housing resources, such as meals, showers, medical care, and government benefits.

The implementation of a coordinated entry system is one of the primary recommendations of the Santa Cruz countywide plan to address homelessness, All In: Toward a Home for Every County Resident.Smart-Path-Process-Flow-FINAL-01 (1)

“No wrong door” approach

Smart Path to Housing and Health is a “no wrong door” approach to preventing, reducing and ending homelessness in Santa Cruz County. Currently, people experiencing homelessness in Santa Cruz County must navigate a complex and ever-changing maze of services. They are often referred from one place to another, complicating the path to permanent housing. Smart Path decreases barriers and identifies those most in need of housing by utilizing a uniform assessment and a single Homeless Management Information System.

In order to reach the most individuals and families experiencing homelessness, Smart Path needs your support. Smart Path aims to have persons available at as many agencies as possible to conduct Smart Path Assessments, which includes the Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) survey.

Housing Program Referrals through HMIS

Traditionally, in Santa Cruz County, individuals and families experiencing homelessness were able to access housing assistance based on first-come first-served, wait lists, individual advocacy, and sometimes the plain luck of being in the right place at the right time. Utilizing a prioritization assessment tool, Smart Path will prioritize referrals to subsidized housing programs based on medical and social vulnerability.

Information gathered during the assessment process is entered into a shared Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) that has been custom designed for Santa Cruz County. Data is protected and shared only with permission from the participant. Assessments can be completed directly in HMIS using a smart phone, tablet, or computer. Referrals to housing programs are made based on the program type, program eligibility criteria, and the participant’s vulnerability score.

Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Participants

The VI-SPDAT is a tool that allows homeless services providers to assess an individual or family’s level of risk back on several factors. There are three separate VI-SPDAT surveys; one for individuals, one for families, and for transitional-aged youth (18-24 years old). Copies of the VI-SPDAT surveys may be obtained from OrgCode here.

How Smart Path will benefit Agencies

Smart Path will save service agency staff valuable time through uniform assessments and a shared countywide database. Currently, agencies conduct their own eligibility assessments, maintain unique housing resource and wait lists, and spend countless hours on referrals. Smart Path will allow agencies to focus their resources on providing assistance to clients, rather than maintaining and updating wait lists and databases.

Levels of Participation

There are three levels of participation in Smart Path to Housing and Health available to homeless services agencies:

Comprehensive agencies will have one or more staff dedicated to conducting assessments. Assessments will be conducted during normal operating hours. Comprehensive agencies will be listed as an Access Point in outreach materials, and will be available to conduct assessments for people with high needs, or who might otherwise present a challenge in completing an assessment.

Moderate agencies will have one or more existing staff trained to conduct assessments, and will conduct assessments during designated hours. Moderate agencies will be listed as access points where assessments can be completed during specific hours.

Light agencies will have one of more existing staff trained to conduct assessments with clients who participate in existing programs, or for persons regularly served. During non-designated hours, light agencies will be asked to conduct a warm hand off to another Access Point. Light access points will not be listed on outreach materials.

If you are already a Smart Path Participating Agency, you can find relevant documents on the Community Technology Alliance’s website here.

If you’re interested in becoming an Access Point, or if you have any questions, please contact Leslie Goodfriend at or (831) 454-7543.

Printable Smart Path to Housing and Health Materials

For more information about Coordinated Entry from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, please visit the HUD Exchange, or read the Coordinated Entry and HMIS FAQ.