Federal Partners Move Forward on HMIS Alignment & Integration

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Community Planning and Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Veteran Health Administration have recently announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that sets forth shared understanding of each agency’s respective roles and responsibilities regarding the use of Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS).

We know that using data to make smart decisions drives improvement in results. The more effectively we can collect, analyze, share, and coordinate around a common set of data, the more effectively we can inform action to end homelessness. For most communities, Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) are the primary data systems to capture information about families, youth, and individuals experiencing homelessness as well as information about the provision of housing and services to homeless individuals and families and persons at risk of homelessness.

HMIS helps us not only understand the impact our programs are having, it helps us better understand who our programs are engaging and how effective that engagement is. Action is underway now at the Federal level to integrate and align HMIS across Federal programs, which will help break down silos between services and programs and improve the effectiveness of our services and programs.

Specifically, the MOU:

  • establishes a facilitated process far all Federal Partners to provide input and recommendations for HMIS,
  • ensures coordination around our common data,
  • establishes clear roles and responsibilities for each agency, and
  • charges the agencies with working together on messaging and guidance to each agency’s grantees.

The MOU is another step towards getting to a better national understanding of who is experiencing homelessness; how many families, youth, and individuals there are; and the true capacity of our local systems to provide them with the services and supports they need to achieve stable housing. 

The MOU is also a big step forward in the implementation of the Youth Framework, making data integration easier and more impactful.

The announcement of this MOU follows the release last year of the 2014 HMIS Data Dictionary and HMIS Data Manual, which marked a significant step toward alignment of data on homelessness across Federal programs. The MOU defines how the agencies will coordinate on homeless data collection and reporting into the future.

Using data to drive results is a corner stone of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. With alignment and integration of HMIS data across federal programs and services, we can leverage our data to maximize the efforts of all Federal agencies, and provide meaningful and more streamlined support to the local partners.