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What is Continuum of Care (CoC)?

April 27, 2022

What is Continuum of Care (CoC)?

Unless you work with homeless individuals directly or are in a related social services field, the term “continuum of care” may be unfamiliar. The continuum of care, sometimes abbreviated as CoC, concept was designed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) nearly thirty years ago. They represent a community-wide commitment of striving to end homelessness.

As former nonprofit case managers, our team understands continuums of care and how they support individuals and families experiencing homelessness across the country.

social workers helping a homeless community with the help of a continuum of careWhat is continuum of care (CoC)?

Continuums of care are designed to support a geographic region and play a crucial role in coordinating homeless assistance strategies.

A continuum of care is typically composed of representatives from multiple organizations that coordinate services to best help individuals experiencing homelessness. These organizations include:

  • Government agencies
  • Nonprofits
  • Social services
  • School districts
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Mental health agencies
  • Affordable housing developers
  • Supportive housing programs
  • Hospitals and health care providers
  • Universities
  • Law enforcement

The continuum of care provides a strategic and comprehensive approach to supporting homeless individuals within a community.

[Related Reading: What Would it Take to End Homelessness?]

Members of a continuum of care discussing social work best practices

How does a continuum of care function in society?

Continuums of care provide a clear framework for delivering tailor-made services to help people experiencing homelessness transition into stable housing and self-sufficiency. They also provide prevention strategies and homeless assistance programs.

HUD breaks CoC programs into four components:

  1. Outreach, Intake, and Assessment: Promoting services to potential clients, and evaluating specific needs of individuals and families to best support them. They also coordinate entry points into the continuum of care for at-risk individuals.
  2. Emergency Shelter: Providing safe, immediate housing to individuals at risk of sleeping on the streets.
  3. Transitional Housing: Providing individuals and families with supportive housing, health care services, and skill development to help them gain self-sufficiency.
  4. Permanent Housing: Helping individuals find affordable housing and assistive services.

Continuums of care also count and report how many members of their community are homeless to the government. These metrics provide government leaders with an overview of homelessness prevalence to help make data-informed decisions.

How are continuums of care funded?

Continuums of care can submit applications for federal homeless assistance funds. In 2021, the federal government allocated $2.48 billion for the Continuum of Care Program, allowing HUD to serve more than 750,000 people experiencing homelessness.

Continuums of care encourage communities to develop a single, collaborative and strategic application for homeless assistance grants. As a result, the HUD Continuum of Care Program cuts down on competition for federal funding among nonprofits serving homeless individuals in the same region. It also helps augment a community’s homeless assistance program by aligning resources strategically.

A key to a successful CoC is ensuring broad participation among community stakeholders and aligning goals, strategies, and tactics.

members of a continuum of care stacking their hands together

When do nonprofits work with a continuum of care?

Homeless people often face numerous barriers to accessing stable employment, cash, housing, nutrition, treatment, and health care services.

Nonprofit organizations that provide community-based services are often involved in supporting their community’s continuum of care. Based on the communities they serve, nonprofits can play multiple roles across the continuum of care—from intake to permanent housing and supportive care.

Nonprofits play an integral role in helping bridge gaps in homeless service delivery among government agencies across a continuum of care.

web browser iconHMIS software like ours helps nonprofits confront homelessness.

Nonprofits involved in continuums of care need HMIS software that helps case managers align goals and track progress on individualized homelessness care plans.

CaseWorthy supports complex case management by tracking individual clients and the services they receive through a continuum of care, accumulating these variables in one place for transparency, accountability, and ease of access. Here are just a few of the features we offer that make it easy to coordinate your homeless services:

  • Easy-to-use entry system, fitted with templated intakes that can be tailored to your organization’s initiatives
  • Powerful referral workflows so you can coordinate with local governments, health services providers, and other nonprofits to better serve your clients
  • Cloud-based software makes it easy for service providers and even clients to access the platform on any device with internet access

Want to learn more about CaseWorthy?

Schedule a demo or talk to one of our case management experts today!