Our HMIS allows organizations throughout Continuums of Care to create and share living portraits of homeless and at-risk men, women and children. These clients have profiles that evolve in real-time to reflect their journeys to permanent housing. The HMIS logs each interaction and service provided along the way, from the VI-SPDAT acuity assessment at initial intake to an emergency housing referral to a permanent housing placement.
Our user story begins with a woman walking into a CoC provider site. Here, the provider's point of contact can login to see a complete list of clients within the CoC that is sortable by level of acuity. This handler asks the woman's name and is able to quickly search the client list to see if she exists in the system. If she doesn't yet, the handler creates a new profile and with the woman fills out the fields (basic info or complete VI-SPDAT questionnaire, depending on the time available). If this woman is already in the client database, the handler pulls up her profile and has instant access to her demographic information, acuity level, housing and program history and more. From a client’s profile, providers can check-in or enroll clients in programs and services they offer or refer clients to available services with vacancies that they qualify for based on age, gender, acuity level, etc., that are offered by other providers in their CoC or a neighboring CoC. Referrals cause alerts to be sent to the referred provider, which notifies them about the incoming client to ensure the hand-off process is as smooth and efficient as possible. Using this same functionality, the provider can also view which emergency shelters have beds available and reserve the client a spot in one of those beds.
We've also developed a simple client-side solution for finding open emergency shelter beds. Clients looking for a bed for the night can call a hotline we've set up through Twilio. An automated operator asks the caller to key in their gender ("Press 1 for male, 2 for female") and their age bracket ("Press 1 for 18 or younger, or 2 for older than 18"). The operator then provides a number of emergency shelters with vacancy that the caller qualifies for based on their demographic info (i.e., "Press 1 for St. Patricks Center"). Keying "1" in that example would redirect the caller to St. Patrick's Center's receptionist. If the caller doesn't show up within 2 hours, the emergency shelter can call them back at the number they called from to see if they are still coming.
In addition to improving care for people already in the CoC system, we've also built a tip line to help outreach programs find newly homeless people who are sleeping in the streets and those at risk of becoming homeless. In this feature of the HMIS, community stakeholders separate from the provider groups can leave notes about where they've seen people sleeping on the street, about those showing signs of approaching homelessness and other miscellaneous notes. Providers can then archive those messages, find and onboard those people into the DMIS system through outreach, associate notes with existing profiles, or comment on the notes.