Turning Data into Insight Series: Using HMIS to Understand Systems

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This edition of Turning Data Into Insight spotlights how researchers, legislators, and policymakers use HMIS data to understand the homelessness assistance system and work toward improvements.  

The information you collect and submit for projects like the Point in Time Count and the Housing Inventory Count is critical to ensuring decision-makers have an accurate picture of the work you do and the people you serve. 

Read on to learn more about how all that data shapes the system we work in: 

The Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress:  

  • What it shows: The primary purpose of the Housing Inventory Count and Point in Time Count data is to generate a report to Congress on the progress the country has made toward ending homelessness. In 2018, the data showed steady rates of homelessness generally, and unsheltered homelessness specifically. Rates also remained steady in chronic homelessness since 2017 – though there have been large decreases in the past ten years.  
  • Why it matters: The AHAR data is analyzed to compare over time, across the country, and is used to understand at the national level where interventions are working and where there are gaps. This data can also be used at the local level to draw the same conclusions and determine where a CoC should dedicate its resources.  

The National Alliance to End Homelessness’s State of Homelessness 2019:  

  • What it shows: this report compiles PIT and HIC data from across the country. Using this data, the report shows that nationwide, 30 percent of people who need shelter cannot access it because there are no available beds. However, the investment in permanent housing has gone up considerably in the past ten years. Compare results in Minnesota to other states and the rest of the country.  
  • Why it matters: the NAEH is the leading research and advocacy organization in the field. Their reports are shared with lawmakers who determine the budget and policy direction for HUD.  

The Center for Social Innovation’s SPARC Initiative:  

  • What it shows: this report analyzed HMIS data and Point in Time Count data to demonstrate the disproportionately high rates of homelessness among people of color  
  • Why it matters: SPARC’s research, analysis, and action has elevated the conversation about racial equity in the homelessness assistance sector. The SPARC team has been engaged in work in Minnesota, so their analysis of local data will be an important step forward in the conversation about advancing equity.