Standards for Canadian organizations

2020 Edition

Outreach Services (CA-OS) 3: Engagement and Assessment

The organization’s engagement and assessment practices enable workers to build trust with individuals experiencing homelessness and ensure they receive prompt and responsive access to appropriate services.
2020 Edition

Currently viewing: OUTREACH SERVICES (CA-OS)



Outreach Services identify and engage youth, adults, and families experiencing homelessness as a first step to accepting care for immediate health and safety needs, gaining access to community services and resources, taking steps toward community integration, and connecting to safe and stable housing.
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
  • Assessment 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
  • Assessment procedures
  • Copy of assessment tool(s)
  • Documentation of collaboration with other community providers and resources
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
  • Review logs, progress notes, or case records, as applicable

CA-OS 3.01

Engagement and assessment are:
  1. non-stigmatizing and non-judgemental;
  2. sensitive to the willingness of the individual or family to be engaged;
  3. culturally and linguistically responsive;
  4. non-threatening;
  5. respectful of the person's autonomy and confidentiality;
  6. focused on information pertinent for meeting service requests and objectives;
  7. trauma-informed;
  8. flexible; and
  9. persistent.


To ensure that transgender and gender non-conforming service recipients are treated with respect and feel safe, service recipient choice regarding their first names and pronouns should be respected and forms and procedures should allow individuals to self-identify their gender and receive access to services accordingly, in accordance with applicable legal, regulatory, and/or contractual requirements.

Fundamental Practice

CA-OS 3.02

Personnel use standardized, evidence-based instruments to assess:
  1. safety, including potentially life-threatening situations and risk for suicide in order to determine if a more intensive service is necessary;
  2. immediate needs;
  3. level of functioning;
  4. overall mental and physical health; and
  5. strengths and capacities, including the capacity for making decisions.


Depending on the qualifications of staff doing street outreach, the assessment process may be a two-phased process with elements (a) and (b) addressed by outreach workers in the locales where connections are made with service recipients, and elements (c), (d), and (e) addressed by a case manager or other qualified staff once the service recipient has agreed to accept services at a shelter or drop-in centre. Assessments should be updated as needed based on the needs of persons served.
Examples: Organizations can respond to identified suicide risk by connecting individuals 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 stabilisation, or 24-hour crisis hotlines, as appropriate.

CA-OS 3.03

Programs facilitate access to the continuum of services through active collaboration with other homelessness service providers and community resources.
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 service recipients present for assistance, and connects service recipients 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.