Data Collection

Published: December 22, 2012

NOTE: This toolkit was published by Building Changes in 2013 to help counties meet a 2014 state mandate that all counties have a coordinated entry system for clients entering the homeless system. It has not been updated since then and does not necessarily reflect current or best practice.


Data play an important role in helping design and evaluate a coordinated entry system. The information collected through an HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) and other data-collection methods creates a narrative on the past and current experience of a household. If gathered widely and consistently, and interpreted accurately, data can lead to deeper insights that result in appropriate community responses to homelessness.

Accurately interpreted coordinated-entry data can help:

  • Coordinate housing services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness or facing a housing crisis
  • Improve the programs and services available to residents experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis
  • Improve access to services for all county homeless and at-risk populations, including high-need populations
  • Reduce inefficiencies and duplication of services within the community
  • Ensure clients receive the amount and type of services that “best fits” their needs and preferences
  • Advocate for policies and legislation that will support efforts to end homelessness in a county
  • Illuminate the extent and the nature of homelessness
  • Evaluate performance and progress toward community benchmarks

Data Collection and Outcomes

When collecting data on homelessness, generally an HMIS is used. But keep in mind that HMIS has limitations. HMIS cannot collect data to describe all of the circumstances by which a person becomes homeless, reveal problems with the coordinated-entry process, or determine why a housing services program is not producing desired results. Thus, it is important that HMIS information be supplemented with other data-collection methods.

Data collection for a coordinated entry system should consist of:

  • Intake and assessment data from HMIS and other parallel database systems (i.e., add-on platforms to track inventory, waitlist, and specific populations such as domestic violence, youth, and young adult)
  • Data from surveys and questionnaires (responses from clients and providers)

The data collected must report on outcomes (performance-based results) that HUD has identified for HEARTH-funded projects. These outcomes are influenced by other factors besides coordinated entry. But HUD, which oversees HEARTH, will evaluate communities on outcomes that essentially cannot be determined without an evaluation of a coordinated entry system and its services.

HUD is evaluating communities based on the following outcomes:

  • Length of time individuals and families remain homeless
  • Incidence of repeated homelessness by previously homeless households
  • Extent of outreach efforts to reach all members of a community
  • Overall reduction in the number of homeless individuals and families
  • Jobs and income growth for homeless individuals and families

HUD also identifies specific outcomes for HEARTH-funded projects and has established the following reporting guidelines for coordinated entry:

  • Is there a reduction in the number of newly homeless?
  • Is there a reduction in the number of homeless recidivism?
  • Are homeless households spending less time in shelters, moving faster into permanent housing?

Next: Data Collection Checklist

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