Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) are software applications designed to record and store client-level information on the characteristics and service needs of homeless people. Implementation of an HMIS is required for programs receiving federal funding through the Continuum of Care (CoC), Emergency Shelter Grant, and Runaway and Homeless Youth programs, but CoCs seek to involve all service providers in its use regardless of funding source. Each CoC maintains its own HMIS, which can be tailored to meet local needs, but must also conform to Federal HMIS Data and Technical Standards. They have been implemented throughout the country and currently include virtually every community in the nation.
HMIS systems contain information about the characteristics of each person who uses a program within the homeless services system, including emergency shelters, rapid rehousing programs, transitional housing programs, and permanent supportive housing. For example, HMIS have rich information about a person’s gender, age, ethnic and racial background, disabilities, veteran status, and household composition. With entry and exit dates for each program stay, HMIS supports analysis of service-use patterns to understand how individuals and families use the homeless services system.
Using data collected in an HMIS, communities are able to better understand the local needs and dynamics among specific subpopulations of people experiencing homelessness, as well as measure the performance of their approaches to preventing and ending homelessness. HMIS is a major source of information for HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report, in which HMIS data from individual CoCs are aggregated to provide estimates of numbers and characteristics of individuals and family members experiencing sheltered homelessness at some point during the course of a year.