Good Works, Better Practices, Great Homes
An interactive guide to operating AIDS housing
Section I: SERVICES
B. THE APPLICATION PROCESS
The application process serves two purposes: first, to find out if an individual meets the specific eligibility criteria of a program, and second, to see if the program offers the kind of support and services suitable to the applicant's needs and wants. It is important to keep in mind that a person who is homeless, or nearly so, and who has few or no other housing options, may feel that she has no real choice but to accept the requirements that come with being a part of a supportive housing program. These requirements may range from meeting with a case manager periodically to submitting to random urine toxicology screening. You can make the client more comfortable by spending the first part of the interview giving information to the client, and not expect to get information from the client until later.
You will want to describe what services the program offers, as well as what liberties the client may be expected to give up. For example, does the program request urine samples? Does staff have access to client rooms? If so, explaining all of this up front before questioning the client will establish trust. The program's substance use policies also should be frankly discussed.
When you are asking questions, the client will want to know why the information is needed, how it is being recorded, and who will have access to the information. At this stage, questions should elicit only that information necessary to determine if the applicant meets your eligibility criteria. Asking detailed questions that are more appropriate to developing a case management plan may feel invasive to the client at this point, and some questions may be prohibited by anti-discrimination laws.
Finally, when applicants are denied admission to the program, they should be entitled to appeal the decision. The applicant should be informed in writing why she was denied and how she can appeal the decision. You will also need to decide how you will manage applications that are denied because of lack of space (e.g. waiting list). Waiting lists can be established and maintained to “favor” first come-first serve, to improve residential diversity or to satisfy most-in-need status. Agencies who’s funding prohibits the use of a waiting list have successfully employed the use of an “interest list”. Which-ever method is used, the most critical component is consistency and fair application to all potential residents.