What Is a Homeless Management Information System?
In the 2002 HUD Appropriations Act, Congress instituted a requirement that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) collect data on the extent of homelessness in the United States and the effectiveness of the programs funded by HUD under the McKinney Act.
As a result, communities receiving McKinney Act funds must report to HUD by the end of each year the number of unduplicated homeless persons in their community. Additionally, HUD is requiring client-level data to aid in the analysis of the patterns of program usage.
A Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is a coordinated system of computers that enable service, shelter and housing providers in different locations across a continuum (community, county or state) to collect and share information about the homeless individuals and families seeking services within their continuum using HMIS software.
This system of computers allows users to collect and store information that can be used to enhance service delivery for their consumers as well as generate required reports for different funding sources, including the Annual Progress Report (APR) for HUD.
Continuum of Care leaders across the country are now selecting computerized case management and administration programs to enable them to meet this Congressional mandate. Foothold Technology’s AWARDS HMIS software is the ideal software solution for these homeless services providers across the country.
How Is HMIS Software Set Up?
Generally, there are two ways to connect all of the computers that will use the software: through a Wide Area Network or through the Internet. A Wide Area Network (WAN) is a collection of computers that are connected through hardware and software over a large, or “wide” area.
Internet software delivery is done through an Application Service Provider (ASP) model which allows users anywhere throughout the continuum to use their existing computers and Internet browsers to access the software with a secure username and password.
For the actual user, accessing software through an ASP is nearly identical to accessing software through a WAN. Administratively, creating and managing a WAN is much more difficult and expensive than utilizing an ASP.
Foothold Technology saves you the expense of purchasing, operating and maintaining a Wide Area Network by providing its AWARDS HMIS software directly to your continuum securely over the Internet.
How to Pay for HMIS software
As part of the 2001 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Application, HUD made costs associated with the implementation and operation of an HMIS an eligible supportive services expense. Now, communities planning to implement or expand an HMIS can seek funding from HUD for the purchase of existing HMIS software, the lease or purchase of necessary computer equipment, and the staffing costs associated with the day-to-day operation of the HMIS (system administration, training, data analysis, reporting, etc.).
In addition to HUD funding, Continua are using funds from city, county and state governments as well as private foundation and corporate support to pay for the purchase of HMIS software.
What Our Clients Are Saying
From Becky Van Wie, Associate Director, Lowcountry Continuum of Care Partnership:
“We would strongly advocate for our HMIS software and vendor – AWARDS by Foothold Technology. We started out with [another vendor] and were very dissatisfied, as it sounds like others using it are. In 2006, we switched to AWARDS and have been completely satisfied with every aspect of the product and the service. We would not consider switching to another product because we do not believe there is anything out there that can beat AWARDS. We are presently making plans for me to get AWARDS train-the-trainer certification.
Here are the advantages we see to AWARDS:
- Foothold has several statewide implementations which can be used as references and are held up as shining examples by HUD.
- AWARDS is much easier to learn and use than [other vendors].
- AWARDS was initially developed as a customized program for a large homeless provider in NYC. Word spread among other agencies in the area, and they started wanting the program for their organizations. Demand grew virally (word of mouth), and finally the developers decided to form this software company. Many of the staff have worked in provider settings. This means they are very familiar with the needs and issues of frontline agencies and users.
- Not only does AWARDS track the HUD-required data elements, but it also tracks services delivered, meetings with clients, and outcomes – very useful for reports to grantors and other funders, as well as to Boards, jurisdictions, etc.
- Several of our agencies have found AWARDS so helpful that they are using it for all of their programs. Once agency contract and licensing fees are paid, agencies may set and use as many different programs as they wish at no extra charge.
- Foothold provides monthly users’ group web conferences and an annual conference as well.
- HUD Annual Progress Report (APRs) are done at the click of a mouse. There is even an audit function that allows agencies to see what data is missing before they produce the report.
- AWARDS has consistently been ahead of the curve with HUD expectations. They have been working for months on HPRP and have everything ready to go – new required data elements, new data entry screens, even the Quarterly Progress Reports there with a mouse click. They have stayed abreast of HUD’s development of new data standards and are ready to go with those.
- A report for AHAR is ready with a mouse click. This can be done at the agency level as an audit and/or at the CoC level. With the emphasis on AHAR participation in the upcoming HUD NOFA process, communities are taking a huge risk by using a vendor that doesn’t already have a proven track record of generating reliable AHAR data that’s been included in previous years’ reports.
- Foothold has the easiest system to use and the best trainers, documentation and support.
Our CoC would be delighted to serve as the liaison to Foothold and facilitate the process of getting the software for the entire state.”
Implementation of Your AWARDS HMIS Software
Once your continuum decides to purchase AWARDS HMIS, we will immediately develop your implementation plan that will include:
- Meeting with the key stakeholder/decision making group to discuss the needs of the continuum and the anticipated uses of AWARDS HMIS
- Review of all programmatic data elements
- Assessment of reporting needs
- Development of the client data dictionary
- Customization of AWARDS HMIS
- Establishment of a staff training schedule, which will include “Train the Trainer” sessions for ongoing training within the continuum
- Review of the modifications to the software
- Establishment of the “Go Live” date – the date that AWARDS HMIS will be up and running in your continuum