Moving Veteran By Name List into HMIS
In 2015, our CoC, like many many others, began to isolate data on veterans who were experiencing homelessness in order to ensure they were being prioritized and immediately referred to our veteran-specific programming. Our approach was based on the Criteria and Benchmarks for Achieving the Goal of Ending Veteran Homelessness as released by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
The beginnings of the process involved several players who were not in HMIS at the time so the Active List (or some call it the "By Name List", but we never use names so..) was begun in a common document sharing tool with data coming from HMIS and other sources. This allowed veterans who were homeless but not in HMIS to be added manually to the list and everyone could see it. Also, the benchmarks, as defined in the document linked to above, required many non-HMIS data elements that would need to be tracked somewhere. Over the first year or so, what data was collected about each veteran was refined by the group in order to make it possible to accurately calculate our progress on the benchmarks.
In 2017, the data elements we were collecting stabilized and everyone working on this was doing all the work it required to keep this list going. However it was a LOT of sometimes duplicative work and we weren't meeting the benchmarks and given the way the data was kept, it was hard to do much extensive analysis on it because as veterans would come on and off the list, histories would get lost, etc.
Also in 2017, we added the Unsheltered Provider to our HMIS workflow and trainings so that any case manager who is working with any unsheltered household or individual can enter them into HMIS as Unsheltered. This household would then show on any prioritization reports, in Point in Time counts, etc. This also opened up the possibility of maintaining the Vet Active List inside of HMIS, since part of the reason it was built outside of HMIS was so that veterans not in HMIS could be added manually. Since unsheltered veterans were now being entered into HMIS, the reasoning for moving everything into HMIS became much stronger.
We knew we would eventually move this process into HMIS, and so my illustrious colleague designed a workflow and Veteran assessment based on the now-stabilized data elements we are collecting in the shared document. We implemented it on March 1st. Here is a screenshot of the assessment:
The assessment and workflow my colleague designed to collect the necessary data to move everything into HMIS.
It is not only important to house all the data in one place, but also to have a meaningful way of getting it out. At a conference, I learned that the Iowa CoC had created a report in ART that calculates the benchmarks so I asked them to share it with me. We traded reports and I mapped it to our data. I would go further into how that's done, but since ART is sinking into obscurity one day hopefully soon, I will not bother! However feel free to consult the very skilled folks at the Institute for Community Alliances for more information about their ART report.
As I expected, from one CoC to the next, processes can vary quite a bit, even working from the same benchmarks. The main core pieces were there, though- the Active List, the Offers, the Chronic and Long Term calculations, etc. There were some features in that report that we didn't need, so I removed them, like "Since Last Meeting", etc. I added some things I felt would be meaningful to our particular group based on what was needed in the shared spreadsheet.
I still have some work to do, but here are some screenshots of the current report:
Summary tab, first thing you see
Benchmarks tab, shows our current status on the benchmarks
I think my favorite part is on the Summary tab where it lists Currently Homeless with No Offer (of Permanent Housing). Like I see it and feel like Let's Do This! Because at least for Veterans, the resources are there, they just need the coordination.
I also really like the Benchmark tab, and the way it shows how many new veterans we've had on the Active List vs how many have exited to Permanent Housing. This way of showing that measure was lifted straight from the Iowa report, so much respect to them on that.
The interesting thing about this report is the way Iowa used color in their report. I have changed the colors in some places, but their report was VERY colorful compared to anything I've done! I have typically stuck to very low-key coloring, generally because I think a lot of our users print these reports on black and white printers. But I left the colors and opened the door to any and all suggestions on the report design, including printing issues, exporting issues, etc.
Anyway, this process has not been completed yet, so I post this perhaps a bit prematurely, but thus far, the switch seems to be going well. We are currently running in parallel, still waiting for the data from the shared spreadsheet to be completely entered into HMIS. Once all of that data has been moved into HMIS, I think we will be in a good place to ditch the old workflow and start really relying on HMIS for ending veteran homelessness!