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Q&A with Shayla Washington, Coordinated Entry System Manager for The Haven in Charlottesville, Virginia

Spotlighting Black leaders in the Built for Zero movement to end homelessness
  |  March 7, 2023

Shayla Washington is the Coordinated Entry System Manager for The Haven, a multi-resource day shelter in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. The Haven offers three housing programs, which includes HUD-funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing. Visitors to The Haven can also find showers, a hot breakfast, laundry facilities, and respite from the elements.

In her role, Washington supervises three Intake Specialists and manages the eligibility appointment process for housing services. She also oversees the eligibility appointment process for The Haven’s housing services, while also managing data quality and upkeep of the community’s by-name data. She has worked at The Haven since the fall of 2016. 

The community of Charlottesville has been a part of Built for Zero since February 2018, and Washington serves as the Data Lead for the Built for Zero team. The community is also in the “last mile” on their journey to functional zero for veteran homelessness.

Shayla Washington from Charlottesville, Virginia, on why homelessness is solvable.

What are you working on right now?

Things I’m currently working on include updating our Coordinated Entry System’s policies and procedures manual and adding in our community’s street outreach parameters. I’m also populating data back to January 2022 for all single adults in our Continuum of Care who are experiencing homelessness (which is a new data set we’re tracking in addition to those who are chronically homeless and veterans experiencing homelessness). 

I have also been attending an ongoing virtual HMIS data analytics course, researching some new platforms for online appointment scheduling and a cloud-based call system for scheduling those eligibility appointments.

Finally, I’ve also recently drafted a letter to our local housing authority to advocate for adding homelessness as a preference in their application process (which I hope will be endorsed by other service providers in the area).

Exterior shot of The Haven, a multi-resource shelter in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Located in downtown Charlottesville, The Haven offers three housing programs, showers, a hot breakfast, laundry facilities, and respite from the elements.

How is your community working to address racial equity within your homeless response system?

In the fall of 2020, our homeless system of care was one of eight communities nationwide selected to take part in HUD’s first Racial Equity Demonstration Program, focusing on helping communities develop initiatives locally to study and address racial inequity within their homeless systems of care. 

Our local team focused on developing a “People’s Caucus” — a group of people with lived experience to evaluate programs and policies. We also concentrated on co-creating new policies with this People’s Caucus to ensure that our system of care is more fully and more effectively serving all people affected by homelessness, equally.

Shayla Washington working with fellow colleagues at a 2022 Built for Zero gathering in Long Beach, California.

Why is this work to improve racial equity important in Charlottesville’s broader efforts to end homelessness?

While creating the People’s Caucus is a great step, I think we still have a lot of work to do. Fifty-eight percent of the people who came through our Coordinated Entry System in 2022 identify as Black, while Black people make up less than 20% of the overall population in Charlottesville. 

“I think homelessness is solvable because all it requires is three things: heart, creativity, and a lot of funding.”

Shayla washington

Homelessness and housing insecurity is disproportionately affecting people of color, not only in our region, but across the country. If we don’t have a lens on this to correct it, the issue will be exacerbated and become even more polarizing.

What do you think people need to understand about racism and homelessness?

Racism and homelessness go hand in hand. People of color, and especially Black people, have systemically been denied housing opportunities due to redlining tactics, implicit (and explicit) bias, and economic and wealth inequities. 

Black people are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice and child welfare systems, just further straining our ability to obtain and remain in stable housing. We need to acknowledge the practices that got us to this point and provide more equitable (and affordable) housing solutions.

Why do you think homelessness is solvable?

I think homelessness is solvable because all it requires is three things: heart, creativity, and a lot of funding. With more affordable housing and strong case management to support people where they are, homelessness can be a thing of the past.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your community?

We absolutely could not do the work we do without the service providers in our community who aren’t HUD-funded or in our official Continuum of Care. Their partnership in problem-solving tough cases — whether financially, through advising, or both — is so critical to our success in ending homelessness in Charlottesville.

Q&As with Black Leaders Working To Solve Homelessness

Read more Q&As with Black leaders in the Built for Zero movement.