Using Data to Drive System Performance

In 2014 the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) introduced seven system-level performance measures.

Why should you care?

These measures will help communities create a complete picture of how well their services and programs are working together to achieve the goals of preventing and ending homelessness.  By understanding these System Performance Measures in Context, communities can comprehensively evaluate the entire system of care rather than evaluate individual programs. With collecting and analyzing the data produced for each of the measures, communities have the stats to assess resource and strategy targets and determine if service needs are being met.

To help assist communities to understand the importance of gathering quality level data throughout all programs serving the homeless populations, HUD has published two System Performance Improvement Briefs.  The Data Quality and Analysis for System Performance Improvement highlights the importance of monitoring system performance regularly to give communities a better gauge of the results produced on an annual basis. As the data is analyzed and reported, communities can work to improve their homelessness systems by implementing Strategies for System Performance Improvement and feel more confident as they apply more data-driven decision-making processes within the system of care.

Now, let’s take a look at the seven system-level performance measurements:

  1.  The length of time persons remain homeless;
  2.  The extent to which persons who exit homelessness to permanent housing destinations return to homelessness;
  3.  Number of homeless persons;
  4.  Job and income growth for homeless persons in Continuum of Care (CoC) program-funded projects;
  5.  Number of persons who become homeless for the first time;
  6.  Homeless prevention and housing placement of persons defined by Category 3 of HUD’s homeless definition in CoC program-funded projects – not applicable to us so we don’t report on it;
  7.  Successful housing placements

Currently, HUD is considering specifically how each community performs based on how many individuals are experiencing homelessness; the length of time they are remaining homeless; the extent to which persons are returning to homelessness after achieving permanent housing; and the rates of successful housing placements.

On May 31st, 2018 our community submitted our System Performance Measure report to HUD.  Below, we have summarized our results. If you are interested in reviewing the full detailed Northeast Florida System Performance Measure Report, you can contact us at hmis@changinghomelessness.org.

Measure 1: The length of time persons remain homeless

This performance criterion measures the number of clients active in the report date range along with their average and median length of time homeless across the relevant universe of projects. When reviewing this measure, it is essential to understand that emergency shelter and transitional housing have operational differences that impact their length of stay. Emergency shelter is intended to provide short-term, temporary shelter and generally has no prerequisite for entry. In contrast, transitional housing provides up to 24 months of temporary shelter usually coupled with supportive services to prepare people for permanent housing. Transitional housing generally targets specific groups and can have entry requirements. Thus, transitional housing typically has a longer length of stay than emergency shelter.

Measure 1a. – Emergency Shelter Only

  Measure 1a. – Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing

Measure 2: The extent to which persons who exit homelessness to permanent housing destinations return to homelessness

This measure provides the percentage of people who exited into permanent housing and returned to homelessness during the reporting period that occurred within 2 years after their exit. The measure looks at all returns in addition to returns after exiting specific program types: emergency shelter, transitional housing, and permanent housing programs.

Measure 3: Number of homeless persons

This measure provides two different counts of people experiencing homelessness. The Annual Count captures the number of people experiencing homelessness across 12 months in emergency shelter and transitional housing. The Point-in-Time (PIT) Count captures the number people experiencing homelessness on one night in January in emergency shelter, transitional housing as well as unsheltered homelessness including places unfit for human habitation.  The number of people who experience homelessness in emergency shelter and transitional housing is connected to the number of beds available to shelter people in emergency shelter and transitional housing. This number of beds is part of our community’s Housing Inventory Count. When there is an increase or decrease in beds, there is a corresponding change to the number of people that can be counted in them. Therefore, analysis of an increase or decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness must also include whether the bed count also changed.

The Annual Count covers a full year but does not include unsheltered homelessness. The PIT Count reveals a one-night snapshot which includes unsheltered homelessness in its total.

Measure 4: Jobs and income growth for homeless persons in CoC program-funded projects

This measure provides the percentage of people who exit that increased their income in CoC-funded projects across the federal fiscal year. The first part of the measure looks at the increase in income among adults who were currently enrolled during the reporting period. The second part of the measure looks at the increase in income among adults who exited during the reporting period. This measure is divided into six tables as shown below.

Measure 4.1: System Stayers

Measure 4.1: System Leavers

Measure 5: Number of persons who become homeless for the first time

This measure provides the number of people who experience homelessness for the first time compared to all people who experience homelessness in emergency shelter and transitional housing during a year.

Metric 5.1: This measures the change in active persons in emergency shelter (ES) and transitional housing (TH) projects with no prior enrollments in HMIS.

Metric 5.2: This measures the change in the number of persons entering emergency shelter (ES), transitional housing (TH), and permanent housing (PH) projects with no prior enrollment in HMIS.

Measure 6: Not applicable for us

Only CoC applicants that have exercised the authority and been approved by HUD to serve families with children and youth defined as homeless under other federal laws are required to complete Measures 6a, 6b, and 6c.  Currently, our community is not required to report information for this measure.

Measure 7: Successful Housing Placements

This measure provides the number of people who exit successfully to permanent housing across the federal fiscal year. The first part of the measure looks at exits from street outreach to permanent housing. The second part of the measure looks at combined exits from emergency shelter (ES), transitional housing (TH), and rapid re-housing (PH-RRH). Finally, the third part of this measure looks at permanent supportive housing only and includes retention of existing permanent supportive housing as well as exits to new permanent housing from permanent supportive housing. Pardon us for the acronyms. We’re not a fan either.

Measure 7a.1: Exits from Street Outreach

Measure 7b.1: Exits from ES, TH, and PH-RRH

Measure 7b.2: Persons in all PH projects except PH-RRH

If a picture is worth a thousand words, well then, a picture with numbers must be exponentially more descriptive. And we couldn’t agree more.

Knowing where we are as a community with the needs, the strategies to support the needs, and how much we require to address the needs will help our community reach its goal to reduce and end homelessness.

And this data, part of our Housing Management Information System (HMIS), demonstrates over and over again the real, calculable value it is to take the time, input the data and then evaluate it. We’ll never have the ability to course correct if we don’t know where we’re going – and certainly not – if we don’t know where we been.

Author: Lauren D’Amico, Changing Homelessness, Inc., Director, Information Management Systems

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