2022 Edition

Housing Stabilization and Community Living Services (CA-HSCL) 3: Intake and Assessment

The organization’s intake and assessment practices ensure that individuals and families receive prompt and responsive access to appropriate services.




Individuals and families that use Housing Stabilization and Community Living Services obtain and maintain stable housing in the community, strengthen personal support systems and resources, and enhance life skills and functioning in order to improve overall well-being and live as independently as possible.
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • In a few rare instances, urgent needs were not prioritized; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Culturally responsive assessments are the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Urgent needs are often not prioritized; or 
  • Services are frequently not initiated in a timely manner; or
  • Applicants are not receiving referrals, as appropriate; or 
  • Assessment and reassessment timeframes are often missed; or
  • Assessments are sometimes not sufficiently individualized; 
  • Culturally responsive assessments are not the norm, and this is not being addressed in supervision or training; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • Intake or assessment is done by another organization or referral source and no documentation and/or summary of required information is present in case record. 
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • There are no written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.  
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Screening and intake procedures
  • Copy of screening tool(s)
  • Assessment procedures
  • Copy of assessment tool(s)
  • Documentation of collaboration with other community providers and resources
  • Community resource and referral list
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Persons served
  • Review case records


CA-HSCL 3.01

Individuals and families participate in an intake screening within 24 hours of admission and receive information about:
  1. how well their request matches the organization's services; and
  2. what services will be available and when.


For homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing programs, screening is often a collaborative process that occurs within the broader homelessness crisis response system (which may also be known as a Coordinated Entry Process or a Centralized or Coordinated Assessment System). Homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing programs should provide procedural or documentary evidence that demonstrates their role in the screening process.


Matching individuals in recovery to a recovery house that will meet their needs is critical to ensuring resident safety. While this determination will sometimes be made by the referring provider, organizations should have procedures in place to ensure an appropriate match has been made prior to the individual moving in. Individual needs, preferences, and expectations should be considered when assessing the appropriateness of the living arrangement including, but not limited to:
  1. intensity of recovery supports needed or desired (e.g. availability of certified peer specialists, staff qualifications, etc.);
  2. any special needs (e.g. co-occurring mental health diagnoses, mothers with children, veterans, etc.);
  3. geographic preferences;
  4. transportation availability;
  5. chosen recovery pathway (e.g. medication assisted recovery, AA, etc.);
  6. level of medication assisted recovery support needed or desired (e.g. do others in medication-assisted recovery live in the home); and
  7. time in recovery.
Generally, recovery housing should be low barrier, but when it is determined that the recovery home is not going to meet the support needs of the individual, linkages to a more appropriate provider should be offered.
NA Another organization is responsible for screening, as defined in a contract.
Examples: Organizations may collaborate through their community’s coordinated entry processes, if available. Coordinated entry provides equal, nondiscriminatory access to appropriate services regardless of where people present for assistance, and connects them to all available community programs and services, as appropriate. Coordinated entry processes provide access to providers delivering a wide range of services, including both homeless-specific programs and services for the general population. Examples include shelters for domestic violence survivors, runaway and homeless youth programs, street outreach services, homelessness prevention programs, emergency shelters, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, programs for veterans, LGBTQ-affirming services and supports, providers of mainstream benefits and services, health and mental health clinics, employment services, and child development programs.

Fundamental Practice

CA-HSCL 3.02

Prompt, responsive intake practices:
  1. gather information necessary to identify critical service needs and/or determine when a more intensive service is necessary;
  2. are trauma-informed;
  3. are non-stigmatizing and non-judgmental;
  4. are culturally and linguistically responsive;
  5. give priority to urgent needs and emergency situations;
  6. support timely initiation of services; and
  7. provide placement on a waiting list or linkages to appropriate resources when individuals cannot be served or cannot be served promptly.


To ensure that people who identify as transgender and gender non-conforming are treated with respect and feel safe, service recipient choice regarding their first names and pronouns should be respected and intake forms and procedures should allow individuals to self-identify their gender and receive access to sleeping quarters, bathroom facilities, and shower facilities in accordance with applicable legal, regulatory, and/or contractual requirements.


Trauma-informed intake practices explore whether a service recipient has been exposed to traumatic events and exhibits trauma-related symptoms and/or mental health disorders. A positive screen indicates that an assessment or further evaluation is warranted. During the screening process, persons served should feel emotionally and physically safe.


Rapid re-housing programs should develop screening and intake processes that promote acceptance regardless of income or housing barriers, and implement prioritization criteria when requests for assistance exceed program capacity. Intake should also reflect a Housing First philosophy to ensure that persons are accepted into the program without preconditions.
Examples: Organizations can respond to identified suicide risk by connecting the individual to more intensive services; facilitating the development of a safety and/or crisis plan; or contacting emergency responders, 24-hour mobile crisis teams, emergency crisis intervention services, crisis stabilization, or 24-hour crisis hotlines, as appropriate.

Fundamental Practice

CA-HSCL 3.03

Children and youth receive an age-appropriate intake screening that includes: 
  1. personal and identifying information;
  2. health status, including emergency health needs; and
  3. education status, including enrollment in early childhood education or school.
NA The organization does not serve children and youth.

NA Another organization is responsible for screening, as defined in a contract.


CA-HSCL 3.04

Individuals and families participate in an individualized, culturally and linguistically responsive assessment that is:
  1. completed within established timeframes; 
  2. updated as needed based on their needs; and
  3. focused on information pertinent for meeting service requests and objectives.


For programs providing rapid re-housing services, information gathered through assessment should focus on the individual’s immediate housing crisis and target the person’s goals, strengths and barriers as they relate directly to obtaining or maintaining housing. Service objectives should be directly related to resolving the housing crisis as quickly as possible.


The Assessment Matrix - Private, Public, Canadian, Network determines which level of assessment is required for COA’s Service Sections. The assessment elements of the Matrix can be tailored according to the needs of specific individuals or service design.


CA-HSCL 3.05

A comprehensive assessment includes, as appropriate:
  1. employment history;
  2. mainstream benefits history;
  3. housing history for the past five years;
  4. housing barriers;
  5. housing goals and preferences;
  6. veteran status;
  7. level of education and education goals;
  8. income and resources;
  9. substance use history;
  10. mental health history, diagnoses, and medications;
  11. intellectual or developmental disability status and history;
  12. family functioning, parental stress, and parenting skills;
  13. a social network inventory, including relationships with family, friends, and/or significant others;
  14. history of childhood victimization and trauma; and
  15. history of adult victimization, including domestic violence and sexual abuse.


Personnel that conduct assessments should be aware of the indicators of a potential trafficking victim, including, but not limited to:
  1. evidence of mental, physical, or sexual abuse; 
  2. physical exhaustion; 
  3. working long hours; 
  4. living with employer or many people in confined area; 
  5. unclear family relationships; 
  6. heightened sense of fear or distrust of authority; 
  7. presence of older male boyfriend or pimp; 
  8. loyalty or positive feelings towards an abuser; 
  9. inability or fear of making eye contact; 
  10. chronic running away or homelessness; 
  11. possession of excess amounts of cash or hotel keys; and 
  12. inability to provide a local address or information about parents. 
Several tools are available to help identify a potential victim of trafficking and determine next steps toward an appropriate course of treatment. Examples of these tools include, but are not limited to, the Rapid Screening Tool for Child Trafficking and the Comprehensive Screening and Safety Tool for Child Trafficking.


In recovery housing, assessments should be driven by the resident and focused on their barriers to recovery, unmet service needs, and strengths and resources. 


CA-HSCL 3.06

Children and youth receive a comprehensive, age-appropriate assessment that: 
  1. identify cognitive, language, motor, behavioural, and social-emotional development needs including those that may require formal screening or evaluation; and 
  2. takes into account involvement in education, child protection, and/or juvenile justice systems.


To help decrease family rejection and increase family support for youth who identify as LGBTQ, the assessment should include a network inventory of family relationships, experiences with family rejection, capacity for increasing family acceptance and support, and specific culturally appropriate education and guidance.
NA The organization does not serve children and youth.


CA-HSCL 3.07

The organization facilitates access to the continuum of services through active collaboration with other community resources.