HMIS Software – AWARDS Overview

What Is a Homeless Management Information System / HMIS Software?

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 a Software as a Service (SaaS) 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 SaaS is nearly identical to accessing software through a WAN. Administratively, creating and managing a WAN is much more difficult and expensive than utilizing an SaaS.

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.

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

HMIS Software: Related Articles

Leveraging Data to Mitigate Homelessness in Mississippi

By Rebecca Dresner, Foothold Technology

For the 300 veterans experiencing homelessness in Mississippi, each night is a new battle to find a safe, warm place to sleep. Until recently, finding and securing benefits was a confusing process. Organizations across the state could not share their data or easily access real time information about their clients. Mobile applications and improved data systems have helped alleviate some of this burden for both those in need of services and those organizations providing support.

Mississippi United to End Homelessness (MUTEH)

HMIS system

Mississippi United to End Homelessness, more commonly known as MUTEH, is using Foothold Technology’s AWARDS software in collaborative ways to help mitigate homelessness in their state. MUTEH is Mississippi’s Lead Agency for both Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) and the Continuum of Care (CoC), working with partner organizations and government agencies to serve and house vulnerable populations across the state.

Many HMIS Participating Agencies are participating in an innovative data collection program where they enter live data into their statewide system. Outreach teams equipped with ipads regularly set out across the state into their local communities and homeless encampments to create profiles of those experiencing homelessness in real time.

HMIS and Data Accessibility

Ledger Parker, Executive Director of MUTEH, recognizes the importance of having one centralized database that “ensures more accountability, versatility and better data quality.” The statewide collaborative allows agencies to see if there are gaps or duplications in services.

 

Today, as a veteran experiencing homelessness in Mississippi, you could walk into the Jackson VA medical center and almost immediately receive cash vouchers, a process that could have previously taken weeks. Agencies like MUTEH, that are using data in a strategic way, are leading the charge in uniting technology with human services. Parker explained, “Easy access to our data enables us to effortlessly create and share reports, which lets us better serve our community.”

HMIS and AWARDS

We have noticed similar successful results in states where Foothold’s HMIS customers are using data in interesting ways. The use of HMIS in New Jersey and the process by which de-duplicated services data was pulled from the HMIS to match with Medicaid claims data in a more efficient way. In Vermont, we work with two organizations who utilize AWARDS to support their housing programs and improve the lives of those in their community. Good record-keeping in AWARDS allows Foothold Technology customers to find new opportunities to partner with other entities to inform planning, drive policy and strengthen communities.

Strengthening Communities Through Data and Research

By Jeremiah Dameron, Foothold Technology

As more communities identify opportunities to generate Medicaid savings and improve individual outcomes among Medicaid beneficiaries who use homeless services, all eyes are turning to data. In recent conversations with a few Foothold Technology partners and customers, we’ve captured some thoughts about how agencies are accessing Medicaid dollars to support services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Because of good record-keeping in AWARDS, our electronic record for human services agencies, Foothold Technology customers are also finding new opportunities to partner with other entities to inform planning, drive policy and strengthen communities. Siena College, based in Loudonville, NY, has been working with Foothold Technology customer CARES, on a research project related to Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data. We were pleased to learn that as a result of this partnership, a suite of additional HMIS tools developed by a professor and students at the college was recently published online. Allyson Thiessen, Director of HMIS Program and Services at CARES stated, “I wanted to pass [the news along] because the only reason we could do this partnership is due to the flexibility of AWARDS.”

We’re seeing similar partnerships and advancements in how data is supporting research in states like New Jersey. The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA)/HMIS, a Foothold Technology client, has entered into an agreement with Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy (CSHP) and the NJ Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (DMAHS) to share encrypted data to look at the intersection of Medicaid use and homelessness. The study hopes to ultimately show the health and cost benefits of stable housing for those experiencing long-term homelessness. You can read more about this study in this blog post from  Paul Rossi, our Director of Client Services.

The Foothold Technology team is proudly working behind the scenes to assist our customers and provide support to these types of studies, but it’s the partnerships our customers are forming and the teams of people coming together who are bringing this important data to light. We’re honored to have a seat at the table. Do you have an interesting story about how you are using data to partner with others? We’d love to hear from you.