Homelessness refers not only to those who are actually living on the streets but also to those whose living conditions fall below the standards for what is considered safe and secure. There are a host of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and non-profit organizations who work tirelessly to provide solutions for this vulnerable population. They have many tools at their disposal; one of which should always be a flexible and reliable Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
HMIS were developed in response to a Congressional mandate. The mandate ensured that homeless service organizations who received United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds or organizations that were collaborating with federal partners would collect demographic information about homeless populations they planned to use those funds to help.
The goal of aggregating this information was to correctly understand the issues that the funding was intended to address.
Having this information improved efficiency and allowed for more robust reporting to stakeholders such as homeless service organizations, community leaders, clients, and even Congress.
Attacking the problem of homelessness requires a focus on the local level due to the unique differences of communities, populations, and municipalities across the country. HMIS seek to capitalize on the uniqueness of a community by being flexible enough to capture regional specific information and the ability to tailor the system to suit those specific needs.
Homeless management information systems are the software that helps collect, organize, and utilize private, sensitive, and confidential information of local homeless populations. HMIS was developed as a result of a Congressional mandate that sought to establish a common set of guidelines for the type of information that organizations would gather. The purpose was to facilitate collaboration between other organizations and state and federal funding opportunities.
The information that is collected by an HMIS helps to provide an accurate count of the homeless population, track the patterns of services used, as well as the locations of populations and services. This data is used to evaluate the effectiveness of services and to analyze where funding would be most appropriate. This data is also very useful for HUD’s reporting to Congress.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development mandated that each continuum of care operating in the United States should implement and maintain an HMIS that met its specific qualifications. A continuum of care (CoC) is a local or regional planning body that seeks to provide housing and shelter solutions to the area’s homeless individuals and families. These coordinating bodies are a result of HUD’s effort to streamline funding by having communities apply for support via the submission of a single application. This collaboration would in turn promote a more effective and strategic approach to helping the homeless population. Broadly, the purpose of a CoC can be defined as:
Continuums of care provide several different types of services, including:
An effective HMIS used by CoCs works to assess whether the collaborative effort is making progress toward their established goals. The mandate requiring all continuums of care to maintain an HMIS ensures that local providers are not only using funding appropriately but that they are rendering services most needed by the local homeless population.
Implementation of an HMIS that meets Department of Housing and Urban Development standards is a qualification for receiving funds from the Federal government. In this way, HMIS has a double benefit for social and casework professionals: it satisfies a funding requirement and also standardizes and streamlines the collection of information for the organization.
According to the guidelines outlined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are four essential specifications that must a part of any approved homeless management information system. While HUD wants to make the most of local, on-the-ground knowledge within communities, these four essential components ensure some degree of uniformity in the type of information that is collected.
The four essential components are:
Homeless populations are among the most health care vulnerable individuals in society. Poverty, hunger, and dangerous living conditions are all serious threats to the well-being of the homeless. Homeless Management Information Systems can help to track the health care status of clients as they move in and out of shelters and programs.
The information that is gathered in an HMIS can be shared with other entities that seek to provide health care to the homeless population. As clients move in and out of the various services offered by a continuum of care, their status and progress can be monitored. Because of the standardization of the information as outlined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, this information can efficiently follow the client to health care providers no matter where they are.
Homeless shelters provide temporary shelter and residence for homeless individuals. These shelters are intended to provide safety from extreme weather and hazardous conditions. These shelters grew in prominence in the 1970s when the nation was experiencing a rise in housing costs and higher rates of unemployment.
Most shelters primarily provide services during the evenings with clients leaving in the morning. In the United States, homeless shelters are typically operated by non-profit organizations – most often religious groups. In addition, to shelter from the elements, homeless shelters provide a variety of other services including meals, substance abuse programs, and transitional housing.
The work that these shelters do is absolutely essential to society. They are there to help individuals when they are at the most vulnerable times of their life. Countless individuals have been able to get back on their feet and regain stability and self-sufficiency due to the emergency care that these shelters provide.
In short, the homeless management information system helps share confidential client information in simple, effective manners making it easier for shelter providers to coordinate services. Clients end up being the primary beneficiaries. The benefits of health management information systems include, and certainly are not limited to:
Affordable housing case management relies on a robust HMIS as the foundation for success. Case management solutions can streamline processes, identify and correct inefficiencies, and organize efforts to create a more focused approach to solving the epidemic of homelessness. Case management solutions support efficiency and automation through:
PlanStreet provides a flexible, powerful, and proven software that can streamline the process of a continuum of care by automating and digitizing workflow. Arming industry professionals with this tool allows them to use their skills to combat the pervasive problem of homeless.
One of PlanStreet’s greatest assets is its flexibility to adapt not only to the specific requirements of an organization but also to the ever-changing federal and state regulations that govern the disbursement and use of government funds. Simply put, organizations can’t afford to not investigate the advantages PlanStreet’s offerings provide.