Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)?
- HMIS is a computerized, web-based data collection system that tracks the nature and scope of human service needs at an individual agency as well as across a Continuum of Care. HMIS is specifically designed to capture uniform client level data over time to understand the characteristics and service needs of men, women and children.
- Who is in charge of the HMIS?
- The Harbor Homes, Inc. (HHI) is responsible for implementing the HMIS. HHI organizes trainings, user groups, and technical support. HHI is also the liaison between the user agencies and Bowman Systems, the HMIS software vendor.
- Who should use HMIS?
- HMIS is targeted towards homeless shelters, transitional housing programs for the homeless,
permanent supportive housing programs for formerly homeless persons, and other homeless
service programs. HMIS is also used by Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Programs
(HPRP). Some agencies are required to use HMIS if they receive certain types of funding from
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Other homeless programs are
encouraged to use HMIS because it helps provide us with a more complete picture of
- What software do you use?
- We use Bowman Systems Servicepoint, a software solution provider based out of Shreveport, LA and they provide the technical support for the database.
- How much does HMIS cost?
- HMIS is subsidized by HUD and the State of NH, so there is no cost at all for homeless service providers.
- How do I sign up and how do I get a user name?
- Anyone wanting to use HMIS will need to attend a New User Training Sessions. You can register
for the New User Trainings by visiting the “Training” section of our website. Each
person will also need to fill out a copy of the “End-User Agreement”. That document can be found on the “Documents” page.
- How many people at our agency can use HMIS?
- TBD by the State of NH. However each person will need to have their own
User name. We cannot allow people to share their usernames or passwords.
- Can Domestic Violence programs user HMIS?
- No. Domestic violence programs are prohibited from using HMIS according to the Violence
Against Women Act of 2005.
- What if my agency is a faith-based organization?
- Faith-based organizations can have the same benefits of using HMIS as any organization. This
includes the same access to training, onsite assistance, and technology funds. In addition HMIS
is being customized to provide greater resources to faith-based organizations.
- What is HMIS training like?
- A general HMIS training takes about 2 and a half hours. It covers basic HMIS functions like Client
Intake, Services, and Discharge. More advanced training is also available. Most of our trainings
are offered via webinars so you can attend them from your office. Some of the trainings are
conducted live in our office or regionally if demand is high enough. The webinars
use the GoToWebinar.com software, so the first time you attend a webinar you will be required to
install a small applet. You will also need to call in to a conference line to hear the audio portion of
the webinar. During webinar trainings you are generally following along as the training
demonstrates the user of the system. Periodically you will be asked to answer questions as a
review of what you have learned. Attendees are strongly encouraged to take detailed notes and
to download the Training Outline found on our website.
- Who should attend HMIS training?
- Everyone at your agency who will be using the HMIS should attend HMIS training, as well as
anyone who will be collecting information about your clients using paper surveys.
- Do I need to have HMIS installed on my computer?
- No. HMIS is entirely web-based. All you need is an Internet connection.
- What type of Internet connection do I need?
- HMIS will work with an internet connection we recommend using a “broadband” Internet connection, such as cable modem, DSL, or ISDN.
- What if we don’t have computers, printers or internet access?
- Contact the HMIS Project Manager.
- What are the benefits of using HMIS?
- HMIS has many potential benefits, such as:
• Better coordination of services
• Less duplication of intake and assessment
• Track client outcomes
• Print reports at the touch of a button
• Analyze data by population, subpopulation, gender, age, etc.
• Generate an unduplicated count of persons served
• Educate your community with good, solid, numbers
• Use data to communicate more effectively with funders and donors
- Can you give me some specific examples of these benefits?
- • A supportive housing program analyzed their HMIS data by subpopulation and discovered that
clients who were also military veterans had a much shorter length of stay than any other
subpopulation. The agency realized there was a need to develop better collaborations with local
veteran’s service organizations. This issue would not have been discovered without the ability to
analyze data using HMIS.
• A homeless program administrator routinely spent over 40 hours preparing their HUD Annual
Progress Report (APR). With HMIS, the administrator simply clicks on a button that says “Print
APR.” The entire process takes less than five minutes. By using the HMIS, administrative time is
significantly reduced, allowing staff to spend more time working directly with the clients.
• The United Way calls and wants to know the average age of a homeless person in your
community. They want to use the information as the centerpiece of their annual giving campaign.
HMIS can be used to quickly generate information needed by funders.
- What are the risks of HMIS?
- The main risk of HMIS revolves around privacy and confidentiality. To ensure that information in
HMIS is kept secure we regularly audit agencies to make sure they are following all security
guidelines. Each user will be given their own username and password and we are able to audit a
user’s activity should there be a suspected breach of confidentiality.
HMIS is a Client-Choice system, meaning that the clients have the choice of keeping their data
confidential or sharing their information with other partner agencies. Client’s must sign a release
in order to share their information. The benefit of sharing information is that other agencies will
be able to pull up their data and will not need to ask the same questions each time a client
presents for services. However, it is important that staff make sure the client’s understand their
rights. More often than not, consumers are more concerned with getting food and shelter than
with safeguarding their data and may be willing to sign anything put in front of them if it is not
explained carefully in language that they will understand.
The HMIS has several built-in security precautions. First, the HMIS software has a multi-level
“permission” structure governed by passwords. A password allows the user to see only the data
that is relevant to them. The systems also uses 128 bit encryption technology - the same
technology used for online banking - to render the database unreadable to anyone who attempts
an unauthorized use of the system. In addition, IHCDA has developed client consent forms (to
inform clients of their rights) and Agency Partner Agreements, and a user Code of Ethics to
ensure the data is used and collected responsibly. Lastly, the government will not see any client
- What if I don’t have time to learn a new system?
- We understands that adopting a new technology can be a daunting task. HMIS staff is
committed to helping your agency implement the HMIS in the way that best integrates with your
HMIS is expected to reduce the amount of administrative time spent on a program. We
conducted a survey of their clients, and they indicated that administrative time spent
on program reporting was reduced by as much as 80 percent. Imagine the amount of time you
spend preparing summary data for your board meeting, combing through sign-in sheets, tallying
up demographics. Using the HMIS, that same report could be printed in less than two minutes.
Your agency may choose to use HMIS for a single program for a while, until you are comfortable
with the technology. We will be with you each step of the way, whether it is on the phone or
onsite at your agency, at a user group meeting, or through newsletters and conference calls.
- How can I stay up-to-date with what’s going on with HMIS.
- Check out the HMIS page on our website at www.NH-HMIS.org. Announcements are
posted periodically on our website and sent out through the HMIS Messaging system to current