CHN fights homelessness with Microsoft Terminal Services

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Community Housing Network, Inc.
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Community Housing Network is devoted to providing homes for people in need and access to resources to create sustainable communities.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Community Housing Network (CHN) has for nearly a decade been providing housing solutions for persons in need in Oakland and Macomb counties in Michigan. We develop affordable housing properties, manage properties where persons with disabilities can live in an independent or semi-independent manner, operate a Housing Resource Center providing information and technical support on all things related to affordable housing and oversee supportive housing programs helping persons with disabilities transition from homelessness. Finding solutions for one of life’s most basic needs requires this multi-pronged approach, particularly when the people we’re helping generally can’t access the solutions on their own. Our organization uses Microsoft programs to do all the things a business does inside its walls, but the most dynamic, life-changing, mission-enhancing product we use is Microsoft Terminal Services. There’s no exaggeration in the statement because this product is directly responsible for our enhanced ability to help people move off the streets and into homes.

CHN supportive housing staff members utilize laptops and Terminal Services when meeting with formerly homeless clients in their new homes. All required forms, case notes, leases and client information are managed on laptops with electronically captured signatures for a virtually paperless system. Previously, staff would print forms amassing files several inches thick for each household. Often, during meetings with clients new topics would arise and staff would then have to go back to the office to access information and mail it back to clients. Terminal Services allows staff to be immediately responsive to clients and offer assistance or information on the spot. Time savings benefit both staff and clients with staff able to have longer time with clients to help guide them into meaningful roles in our community. CHN staff members show formerly homeless clients the importance of connections – with family, friends, neighbors and community.

Other CHN staffers who focus on the chronically homeless population also rely on the remote access when in outreach settings. Some people are ready to get off the streets as soon as assistance is offered; however, there are some who need more time or information to come to that decision. Often relationships are built over months or years as staff members explain how resources can be claimed. Terminal Services gives staff the ability to immediately access pertinent information while they are meeting with potential clients. Bridges are built in this manner and they often become the path for people who have been on the streets for years to finally trust and believe in themselves. The supportive housing programs are federally funded and the intake files also used to become inches thick with paperwork. This system, too, has become practically paperless thanks to Microsoft Terminal Services and remote access.

A decided benefit of the immediate and paperless system is the reduced time needed for clients and potential clients to gain access to resources and funds. Forms can be filled out and filed electronically or printed out when needed. ID cards, disability benefits and many other types of assistance are able to be started immediately. The message we give when we provide this level of help is one of worth, importance and value. It is quite possibly a message our program participants have never heard before or have long ago forgotten. The paperless, remote access system also helps staff keep client files secure, organized and up to date. Measures to communicate and restore dignity are intentionally built into the systems CHN creates in the work we are privileged to do.

Terminal Services helps CHN staff be efficient and flexible in their work with persons transitioning from homelessness. All staff work goes directly into online files with no delay necessary for transcribing notes or scanning documents. When questions arise the system allows supervisors and staff members to access information instantly from almost any location. Flexibility is a necessity in coordinating meetings with our clients and the remote access allows staff to shift their schedule as needed to be responsive and available. The real time information and flexibility keep complicated processes organized and serving the needs for which they were created.

There is hesitancy in the human services field to adopting stringent qualitative metrics because the human factor is often resistant to specific measuring devices. CHN has a culture embracing the complicated nature of inclusion and dignity as priorities in affordable housing. Staff is encouraged to strive for the best solution and collaborate with other organizations and agencies in that search. What has been seen in the 16 months since the remote access system was created is that supportive housing staff is able to meet with more clients per day. Taking away paperwork chores – printing documents before meetings, scanning files and transcribing notes – has given staff more time to meet with clients and the ability to meet with them more frequently. Previously, staff met with three clients per day, yet the new norm is closer to seven clients per day. As a measure of effectiveness, client retention rates have remained steady during the transition to the paperless, remote access system.

There are multiple evidences demonstrating Terminal Services as a critical tool in maximizing CHN supportive housing programs. Yet, the ability to capture real time information about the homeless population in our community has a larger impact on policy and funding. We are the lead organization for gathering homeless data in our community and we work in concert with other state and federal entities to share both our methods and data. CHN staff are sought out by professional associations in the human services data field to provide presentations and report on the system we have created. It is fulfilling to know we provide vital information for use in addressing the issue of homelessness and to receive peer accolades, but the most important reason we do this work is because we know that lives are changed. Everyday CHN uses tools like Microsoft Terminal Services to give hope and provide homes.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery
Project Image
CHN Logo Color.JPG