When serving homeless and unhoused communities with HMIS systems, it’s important to remain compliant in order to qualify for grants and assistance from government agencies. But money isn’t everything. To provide services uniquely tailored to each individual’s needs, nonprofits must be able to store information about people’s histories, lives, preferences, and more.
There are federal regulations on Homeless Management Information Software to determine what information is collected and how it is stored. HMIS systems typically emphasize individuals’ housing needs, but it is undeniable that housing is just one of several other factors contributing to homelessness. With more data about the local unhoused population, teams within a continuum of care can better understand problems and develop solutions to benefit individuals and entire groups.
Below, we explore ways case management features in HMIS can help your team better address the needs of individuals — and ultimately the entire community.
Reporting with PowerBI
HMIS data standards were developed by a consortium of government agencies to standardize data collection and storage because they all agreed that data is power. Collection, however, is only half the battle.
Data can only communicate results and guide decision-making if entire teams of people can understand it. Reporting tools provide an interface through which data can be organized and visualized to depict trends, changes, and outliers.
Software features like Power BI are designed to ingest many forms of data — from expansive cloud-based databases to simple Excel spreadsheets — and output beautiful, easily understood illustrations of fundraising progress, program participation, shelter occupancy, and more. Power BI can be configured to automatically retrieve new data from specified sources whenever it’s updated to keep data clean and current. When multiple agencies have the same access to and understanding of incoming data, they can communicate effectively about strategies, budgets, and results.
One of the first steps after intaking a new client in need of housing services is providing emergency shelter. While the team identifies next steps and sources of ongoing support, the client will need somewhere safe to stay.
An HMIS system’s bed management features track occupancy and availability within shelters. These can be used to manage space in one location, or a vast network of shelters across a municipality or state.
Tracking occupied and available beds seems simple enough, but the question of who should or can stay in which location is not so black-and-white. Emergency shelter is not one-size-fits-all. Some individuals may require accommodations for their disability, while some may need rooms to accommodate their family members. Having access to additional context about an individual throughout the bed management process ensures housing solutions meet their needs.
Plus, if you enable case note functionality within your bed management system, your service providers and shelter staff can stay on the same page about these unique needs.
The needs of the unhoused don’t end when lodging is secured. Individuals require food, clothing, hygiene products, medical care, mental health services, and more. Even in communities fortunate enough to offer this support, these available resources and services must be inventoried, communicated, reserved, distributed, and tracked.
HMIS systems with resource tracking features help teams take stock of available resources, clients’ needs, and past and future connections between the two. With powerful database management tools, nonprofits can easily and efficiently mobilize resources and teams to provide assistance to the maximum number of people, reducing bottlenecks and waste.
HUD’s Continuum of Care model exemplifies this synergy by emphasizing community collaboration in pulling residents out of poverty and homelessness. When housing assistance is coupled with other forms of support, the effects of each are amplified — and longer-lasting.
How CaseWorthy Can Help
HMIS programs go far beyond placing individuals without housing into available shelter space. To provide long-term solutions for those dealing with a housing crisis, programs must address the varied, nuanced needs of each individual they encounter. CaseWorthy’ robust case-management features can be integral to any agency’s work in improving lives in their community. In fact, that’s precisely what they were designed to do.