Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

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

The agency’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 (PA-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.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions: exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement.
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented. 
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.

Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  

  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.  
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner.  
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.  
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.
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

PA-OS 3.01

Engagement and assessment are:
  1. non-stigmatizing and non-judgmental;
  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 federal and state laws.

Fundamental Practice

PA-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 center. Assessments should be updated as needed based on the needs of persons served.
Examples: Agencies 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 stabilization, or 24-hour crisis hotlines, as appropriate.

PA-OS 3.03

Programs facilitate access to the continuum of services through active collaboration with other homelessness service providers and community resources.
Examples: Agencies 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.