Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness

Participating Organizations

  • Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness, Harrisburg, PA
  • Dauphin County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Office, Harrisburg, PA
  • United Way of the Capital Region, Enola, PA
  • The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, Harrisburg, PA
  • YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, Harrisburg, PA

Please note that all data below was derived from the collaboration's nomination for the Collaboration Prize. None of the submitted data were independently verified for accuracy.


An alliance or similar collaborative structure through which members retain structural autonomy and have defined roles and responsibilities to achieve specific social goals or purposes
  • Develop a stronger / more effective "voice"
  • Expand reach and/or range of services / programs
  • Address unmet and/or escalating community need
  • Response to a community need
  • Response to a funding opportunity
  • Funder initiated / mandated the collaboration
Community leader(s) / organization(s)
  • Through a fund set up to encourage collaboration
  • Provided endorsement of the project

The Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness (CACH) was developed in response to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) application. HUD requires a collaborative community effort in order to submit this application. Formation of the CoC requires a needs assessment and the identification of gaps in services. Providers of homeless services who developed a program to close a sevice gap were identified. In addition to closing service gaps, this collaboration resulted in the County of Dauphin and the City of Harrisburg working together. Other objectives behind CACH's formation were to help develop new resources and the community response to homelessness. People who are homeless and the agencies that serve them benefit. Specific results of this include the creation of Safe Haven, a housing-first program, the addition of new resources to support male and female veterans who are homeless and the addition of new Shelter Plus Care beds. Shelter Plus Care is a HUD program which has services closely linked to housing. CACH added members, thus adding to our strength.

Additional partners joined our efforts in order to provide effective services to homeless people. Thus a homeless person may seek emergency shelter, move to transitional housing and then ideally, permanent housing. All the time such a person moves through our community, they receive services contributing to furthering their education, getting a job, and/or receiving services which result in improved decision making. Since 2000, CACH has assured the delivery of over $9.6 million of HUD CoC funding to Dauphin County. HUD Continuum of Care Funding for the years 2007-2009 resulted in $3,732,196 brought to our county. Additional cash and funds leveraged by CoC agencies totaled $4,143,336 for those same years.


Steering committee, broad membership

The Coordinating committee is made up of member organizations such as the YWCA, the United Way, City and County representatives, a local foundation and other service providers. Each member has a vested interest in a collaborative approach as it furthers the mission of each organization. Throughout the year, CACH members address numerous issues that come up for the community who is homeless. We have educated public officials and the general public specific to these issues. In addition, we successfully submitted a CoC application for each of the past nine years. We are currently working on submitting our 10th CoC application. The outcome of these efforts is an increase in funds available to serve people who are homeless, a coordination of these services, and an informed public regarding its community. CACH has a Blueprint Implementation Team (BIT) with a plan to end homelessness in our community. Four years ago, CACH identified a computer program used for the HUD-required Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS). Developing the HMIS demonstrates a community/service provider commitment to case management, collaboration and a commitment to data collection and data-driven decision making to support future actions.


  • Addressing lack of staff or allocation of staff resources
  • Raising funds or integrating fund development to support the collaboration
  • Coordination / integration of programs & services

After thorough discussion of a matter, most decisions are arrived at through consensus decision making. Though consensus building takes time, it builds a stronger, more resolved community. Participants take a win-win approach. CACH has been challenged of finding ways to keep pace with growing homelessness. To meet that challenge, our community added more beds in recent years and expanded other services. The challenge now exist to sustain those beds and services.


  • Financial savings - Coordination / consolidation of programming
  • Financial savings - Shared development function
  • Greater ability for each partner to focus on core competency - Greater ability to allocate resources to areas of need
  • Improved marketing and communications, public relations and outreach - Improved marketing and communications, public relations and outreach
  • Previously unmet community need now being addressed
  • Greater range / variety of services/programs offered

CACH measures it's outcomes through HUD-required and other funders' reporting. One outcome from these reports is that 83% of all homeless people in our community are quickly placed into housing and services. A meaningful difference for our community was more effective services being developed for homeless people thus stabilizing the lives of individuals and families. Our collaboration helped stabilize and sustain a core set of services to the homeless plus protecting needed services. Our community is then stabilized because of CACH. It is our perspective that for a community of this size, numerous and diverse services are available to improve an individual's life.


If an agency is committed to effective services to it's client, this collaborative model will benefit both that agency and that client. CACH's model of collaboration results in a system that is more supportive of indivdual service providers. This supportive system has reduced the competition for scarce resources, expanded services, and created a more cooperative atmosphere where debates and discussions enhance the work rather than harming and polarizing. People needing services must spend time receiving those services, not looking for those services. We learn from one another.

Efficiencies Achieved

The Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness (CACH) began in 2000 as an all-volunteer community collaboration to improve coordination and attract resources to support services to individuals and families who are homeless. As an all-volunteer collaboration, no one organization had to bear the full operational costs for CACH and its activities. Since members of the coalition are active and fully involved in the operational work, CACH had not needed to hire staff nor invest resources in physical infrastructure. This necessitates a strong and committed collaborative leadership that ensures strategic planning, task assignment, and accountability. CACH has since hired one staff but does not have to invest resources in physical infrastructure. Hence, CACH experiences substantial operational savings in staff, insurance, rent, office furnishings, and similar costs. Economic efficiencies are also realized in CACH collaborative activities, such as its annual Point-In-Time (PIT) Survey. The PIT Survey is a 24-hour snapshot that documents the supply and demand for housing and services for homeless individuals to determine priorities for homeless assistance. Efficiency is maximized and the economic cost minimized by the participation of entire CACH network. This approach obtains and disseminates valuable data for all providers without having to incur the costs as an individual agency. CACH continues to conduct the PIT survey every year. Eclipsing efficiencies in operations and activities is the economic benefit CACH has delivered to the region.

The formation of CACH in 2000 was a direct outcome of our regional leaders realizing we were failing to compete for approximately $1 million of annual federal funding for homelessness housing and services. CACH obtained approval of a 2001 Continuum of Care Plan from Harrisburg Mayor Reed and Dauphin County Commissioners, John Payne, Lowman Henry, and Anthony Petrucci. In May 2001, CACH submitted a Continuum of Care Application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was subsequently funded. Since then, CACH has obtained in excess of $9.6 million of HUD Continuum of Care funding for the region.

Applying for this annual funding is a significant CACH collaborative activity; and methodology was created to identify needs. We began with a survey of shelter census from 5 October 1993 which revealed that men made up at 56% of shelter residents. Additionally, the City of Harrisburg’s Bureau of Police could confirm that the majority of the unsheltered individuals are men. Changes were tracked during the development of the City's Continuum of Care, revealing that women experiencing domestic violence were turned away from the City's one domestic violence shelter at the rate of 20 per month. The YWCA estimated that 23% of the clients in its facility have a mental health diagnosis, needing supportive services.

Before CACH was formed, the above data lead to the YWCA obtaining funding through the FY 2000 Continuum of Care during the City’s program year. The YWCA received a three-year commitment of Supportive Housing Program funds in the amount of $516,822 for services and transitional housing for homeless women. With the formation and collaboration of CACH, the FY 2001 Continuum of Care grant application submitted to HUD on May 30, 2001, requested $1,042,068 in Supportive Housing funds for the YWCA of Harrisburg, Program for Female Offenders, and Keystone Community Mental Health Services. In addition the Dauphin County Housing Authority was funded under the Shelter Plus Care component.

Our community tracks CACH success using measureable outcomes, both by means of grant dollars awarded and housing units sustained or created. The following chart documents housing units sustained/created from 2007-2009..

CACH’s Outcomes Achieved for Housing & Services

2007: Dauphin County Housing Authority – Shelter+Care Units (renewal)… 35
Dauphin County Housing Authority – New Shelter+Care Units.…..………. 4
YWCA – New Veterans Housing Units…………….……………………..….. 5
YWCA – Perm. Housing/Disabled Units (renewal)…………………………..11
YWCA – YW-Works, Employment Preparation (renewal), serves… 855 people
DELTA – Transitional Housing Units (renewal)……………………………… 8
Shalom House – After Care Rental Units (renewal)…………………………20
Tri-County HDC – New Mt. Pleasant Low-Income Units……………………47
2008: Dauphin County Housing Authority – Shelter+Care Units (renewal)……… 35
Dauphin County Housing Authority – New Shelter+Care Units.…..………. 4
Shalom House – After Care Rental Units (renewal)………………………… 20
Shalom House – New SHARP ‘Housing First’ Units……………………….. 6
DELTA – Transitional Housing Units (renewal)……………………………… 8
YWCA/East Shore YMCA – New Transitional Hsng. Veterans Units……… 5
YWCA – New Veterans Housing Units…………….……………………..….. 4
Dauphin County – HMIS obtained HUD funding for additional 3 years.

2009: Dauphin County Housing Authority – Shelter+Care Units (renewal)……… 35
YWCA – Transitional Housing Units (renewal)……………………………... 12
Gaudenzia/DELTA, Transitional Housing Units (renewal)…………………. 8
Christian Churches United – New Safe Haven Units……………………….. 25
CCU – Safe Haven, New Winter Overnight Outreach beds ……………… 40
Paxton Street Ministries – New Fair Weather Lodge Units….……………. 5
PA CIL/Dauphin County/Tri-County HDC –
New Baldwin Village, Low-Income/Disability Units……...………….. 12

In summary, the management structure for CACH was developed consciously to ensure participatory leadership and involvement of all stakeholders in planning and implementation of services to homeless individuals and families in our community. In its first seven years, CACH was governed by Operating Rules and Procedures that described its structure, decision making process, leadership selection and transitions, standing committee process and operation methods. These operating rules eventually evolved to become the formal organization By-Laws and Articles of Incorporation when CACH became a formal 501(c)(3) organization. Since its creation, the Operating Rules and Procedures have served the coalition well and have needed minimal change and up-dating.

From the beginning, it was important to the membership that individual voices be heard, that everyone be given an opportunity to be actively involved in the coalition’s work. CACH’s structure ensures through its regular bi-monthly general membership meetings that everyone has an opportunity to speak on established agenda items as well as emerging needs and gaps in service. Meetings are governed by a formally adopted Code of Conduct to ensure that everyone can be heard, and is treated with respect regardless of their position in the community or the coalition. Also, the structure allows all interested individuals to engage in specific activities that advance the work of the coalition. Since the coalition largely operates without paid staff, it is necessary that all members of the coalition actively participate in its work. This further requires the coalition’s leadership to continually monitor activities and promote accountability and transparency in all its endeavors.


Located in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, the City of Harrisburg is the capital of America’s sixth largest state and also the seat of the County of Dauphin. The County and the City are the heart of a major interstate highway network with key interchanges each handling over 100,000 vehicles per day. They are also the hub of both passenger and freight rail service, and home to a state-of-the-art airport system. Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg are the center of a metropolitan and geographic region in which over 600,000 people reside.

People throughout central Pennsylvania come to Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg for services, entertainment, cultural activities, and employment. Located here are several large regional medical facilities, psychiatric facilities, a host of social service agencies, institutions of higher education, state and county correctional facilities, a public transportation system, a primary east coast transportation/distribution hub, and federal, state, and local government offices.

As one of the larger cities in Pennsylvania, and centrally located in the state, the City of Harrisburg hosts almost all of the region’s homeless service providers and facilities. On any given day, anyone driving by will see abundant activity at Downtown Daily Bread, Christian Churches United HELP Office, YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, Bethesda Mission, DELTA Community, SHALOM House, Christ Lutheran’s Health Outreach Clinic, Catholic Charities’ Interfaith Shelter for Families, Catholic Charities’ Homeless Psychiatric Clinic, Salvation Army, Downtown Clergy Winter Emergency Shelter Program, Goodwill Industries, and many others.

In early 1995, a group of housing providers and other related agencies began to meet regularly as a loose coalition called the PESSH Group (Planning for Effective Seamless Services for the Homeless). The PESSH Group held a plenary session every other month and working task forces meet between sessions. The City’s Department of Building and Housing Development (DBHD) worked with the PESSH Group as part of the City’s Continuum of Care development activity.

In 1997, DBHD invited 30 housing providers and other related agencies to a public meeting to evaluate and revise its Continuum of Care originally developed in April, 1995. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development was also invited. DBHD obtained direct input on its Continuum of Care from local service providers.

These activities in the mid-1990s formed the basis of collaboration necessary to support CACH when it launched in 2000. It has since thrived as an all-volunteer community collaboration to improve coordination and attract resources for families who are homeless. CACH learned from its community-wide assessment that many men who are chronically homeless are so because of the lack of job skills and education, and the role of alcohol and drug use in their lives; large families, Latino families, intact families, and families headed up by men do not have adequate emergency shelter or transitional housing; and one of our agencies, H.E.L.P., was seeing a trend that more large families and individuals from outside the region are traveling to Harrisburg for emergency services. Limited shelter stay for families prevents the continuation of case management. The School District's Homeless Student Task force was concerned that there is only one facility that can house homeless teenagers and none that will house homeless teenage mothers under sixteen who have become displaced. Low income families renting housing with lead-based paint hazards are vulnerable to displacement and homelessness. Likewise, young female-headed households with little education and job skills are vulnerable to homelessness due to their low earning capacity.

Today, nearly all service and shelter providers in the County of Dauphin and the City of Harrisburg are members of the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness. In 2000, the County of Dauphin, the City of Harrisburg, the United Way of the Capital Region, and The Foundation for Enhancing Communities coordinated the creation of this entity responsible for strategic planning and the development and delivery of a collaborative, coordinated, and inclusive system of high quality services and shelter for homeless persons. These four entities deliver supportive funding and each holds a permanent seat on the CACH’s Coordinating Committee.

In October 2005, the County Commissioners and Mayor of Harrisburg came together to appoint a Steering Committee to develop a 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. This Steering Committee, comprised of 18 private, public and non-profit leaders, began meeting in October 2005 and presented this plan to the Dauphin County Commissioners, the Mayor, and Harrisburg City Council in June 2006. HOME RUN: The Capital Area’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness was fully adopted by the City of Harrisburg and the County of Dauphin in November 2006.

Since then, CACH submits an annual report to local public officials and the community reporting on our ten-year plan to end homelessness, reflecting progress toward the goals set in HOME RUN: The Capital Area’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. This annual report is a measurement of our success. As noted in the above chart, CACH participated in the increase in beds and units available to homeless people.

CACH is an example of collaboration at its best. CACH grew out of an identified pressing need in our community that required a thoughtful, far reaching and long lasting community-based response. Our community recognized that to make any inroads in addressing homelessness that all stakeholders needed to be at the table in an involved and active manner. Yet, an important element of CACH’s success as a collaboration is the manner in which it developed a participatory leadership model. This demonstrates a true community effort where all stakeholders are responsible for developing the solution and the coalition is not about just addressing the agenda of a single organization or group. CACH has been successful because the leadership is active and involved in every element of the coalition’s activities.

If CACH is fortunate to be selected for an award it will use the funds to advance the work of the coalition in pursuing its plans for Housing First approach to addressing homelessness in our community as identified in our 10-Year Blueprint to End Homelessness. We have ambitious plans with more than 70 action steps. Our community’s planning has been hampered by a lack of resources, and the additional dollars will help us expand our efforts to ensure that everyone in our community has a safe place to call home.

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