Central Access Point (CAP) Helpline

Intake specialist with phone headset on and smiling at camera

Central Access Point (CAP) Helpline (513-381-SAFE) assists community members experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. They can access information about services, check for space in emergency shelters, and be placed into housing programs.

Anyone experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness can call to get information about services. And check for space in shelters and other homeless programs. Trained Intake Specialists determine if the caller needs shelter immediately. Or if a referral to a homelessness prevention program is an option.

One of the first centralized emergency shelter access systems in the nation

Before the CAP Helpline launched in 2008, families had to call each shelter to see if space was available. Now, people can call one number and access shelter beds or services across multiple agencies and facilities. Additionally, the CAP Helpline has expanded to address the needs of families and single individuals, plus those who are homeless today and those who are at imminent risk of homelessness.

Intake Specialists can place households into three family shelters, two single men’s shelters, a single women’s shelter, a youth shelter, a transitional housing program, Supportive Services for Veterans Families, four Veteran’s Administration Grant per Diem programs and one of five Shelter Diversion programs. The CAP Helpline works to identify the service that can best meet a household’s needs.


The program’s collaborative partners include: Bethany House Services, Found House IHN, St. Francis-St. Joseph Catholic Worker House, Lighthouse Youth & Family Services, Talbert House, the Freestore Foodbank, Santa Maria Community Services, Jewish Family Services, Volunteers of America, and Shelterhouse.

The CAP Helpline also serves a critical quality improvement purpose. Using the program’s data, we identify best practices, brings key findings to our community, and regularly engage with partner agencies regarding eligibility criteria and client needs. Utilizing both the CAP Helpline’s data and data from national sources improves the targeting of limited homelessness prevention resources.

In addition, the CAP Helpline supports the community’s unique street outreach efforts via the Street Reach app . The app allows anyone in Cincinnati to assist the homeless services system and easily report places where people are sleeping unsheltered. That report comes directly to the CAP Helpline and Street Outreach workers go to help.

Homelessness is one of the most pressing local issues.

In 2022, 6,038 people either resided in a Hamilton County emergency shelter or slept in places not meant for human habitation. This number includes 1,362 children under age 18.

Reported by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, for every age group, homeless persons are three times more likely to die than the general population. Homeless children suffer in many ways. They score significantly lower in reading, spelling, and math than economically disadvantaged children from the same classroom who live in stable housing. In addition, their health outcomes suffer.

According to the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, “homeless children suffer from chronic illnesses (including heart disease and neurological disorders) and acute illnesses (such as minor upper respiratory infections) at twice the rate of the general ambulatory population.” But early identification and intervention through programs like the CAP Helpline can give children a new lease on life. And help their families break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

We continue to address the lack of affordable housing in our community. And work to sustain services like the CAP Helpline which connect homeless and at-risk households to the programs best suited to their needs.

Who does the CAP Helpline serve?

In 2023, 4,662 people called the Central Access Point Helpline, and 1,587 (34%) were placed into a safe shelter or a housing program, including Shelter Diversion . 2,197 of those callers represented families. And 624 were young adults (ages 18-24).

Additionally, in 2023 the call volume continued a four year trend of increasing. In 2020 there were 17,710 total calls to the CAP Helpline. In 2023, we answered 43,184 calls for assistance, 144% increase.

The goals of the CAP Helpline are the same as our organization’s overall goals. To reduce the number of people who become homeless. Provide a high level of assistance to people who are homeless. And to offer solutions to homelessness through housing.

Who pays for the CAP service?

The CAP Helpline isn’t fully funded by the government funding that we administer. But it is partially funded by the City of Cincinnati Human Services Fund, local foundations, and our generous donors . The local foundations that generously support CAP are Christ Church Cathedral, The Daniel and Susan Pfau Foundation, and the Scripps Howard Foundation.


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