The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009 (HEARTH Act), consolidated the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s competitive homelessness assistance grant programs into one new Continuum of Care (CoC) Program.
One of the major requirements that came out of this act was to have a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). But does your HMIS help you provide coordinated homeless services, or is it merely fulfilling compliance requirements?
The truth is, many organizations are not using their HMIS to proactively improve and coordinate services. Generally, this is either because it lacks the capabilities to do so or because the organization doesn’t have a comprehensive evaluation strategy.
Imagine, instead of being a burden, that data collection through your organization’s HMIS was a respected part of making sure that your programs and services were efficient, coordinated and effective. Keep reading to see how one community-wide organization used its HMIS to do more for its clients.
Sonoma County’s Continuum of Care (Sonoma CoC) uses their HMIS to do more than just fulfill Federal reporting requirements. Sonoma CoC is comprised of a broad coalition of nonprofits, public agencies, business organizations and private individuals working together to combat homelessness. This rich set of varied partnerships allows Sonoma CoC to have a lot of impact on homelessness in their community. However, it also means that they need to be well coordinated.
The Sonoma CoC relies on a robust HMIS to enable coordinated system entry and to maintain a strong focus on client outcomes. Sonoma CoC has designed their HMIS both to assess performance against HEARTH measures and to measure progress toward local program goals.
Sonoma CoC uses their HMIS to monitor key data points, which help them resolve unique challenges within their community and provide coordinated homeless services. Some of the data points they track are:
- Length of time a person remains homeless
- The extent to which persons who exit homelessness to permanent housing destinations return to homelessness
- Number of homeless persons
- Jobs and income growth for homeless persons in CoC Program-funded projects
- Number of persons who become homeless for the first time
- Successful housing placement
When selecting an HMIS, Sonoma CoC was looking for something that could accommodate the size and scope of their entire network of partners and that was flexible enough to meet their changing needs. Sonoma CoC chose Social Solutions ETO HMIS as their data management tool.
Teddie Pierce, HMIS Coordinator of the Sonoma CoC sys, “We chose ETO because of its ability to deliver beyond the federal data and are now using it to monitor the results of critical program components that will move people out of homelessness.”
Sonoma CoC is also using ETO’s collaborative features to coordinate among their partners. For example, TouchPoints, ETO’s flexible form-building technology, makes it easy for lead CoC agencies to create and deploy any type of common assessment and prioritization tool across the continuum. Configuration changes are simple and can be performed by HMIS administrators with no formal IT or technical background, and without coding or third-party support. This flexibility allows CoCs to be agile and responsive to their community’s unique data collection and reporting needs while remaining compliant with the most current HUD HMIS data standards.
What if you already have an HMIS but see that there are better options out there that would allow you to provide coordinated homeless services and evaluate your programs? You aren’t locked into one HMIS forever! Check with your new candidates to see if they offer migration support to bring your data seamlessly into the new system. ETO for HMIS provides organizations migrating from other systems with full support to ensure a smooth transition. You should never feel stuck with your current system if it isn’t working for you, your partners and your clients.
ETO’s features include easy implementation, data migration, and data import and export. ETO has a flexible configuration that supports the unique needs of individual programs while maintaining compliance with Federal regulations. ETO offers real-time bed availability assessment and assignment, fast client check-in and checkout and unduplicated participant counts. ETO is compliant “out of the box,” but Social Solutions has HUD/HEARTH/HMIS experts on staff to help you.
Contact one of our Social Solutions consultants to learn how ETO can help your CoC meet its goals and demonstrate its successes.