What is the Seattle/King County Homeless Management Information System?

A Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is an online database that enables organizations to collect data on the services they provide to people experiencing homelessness and people who are at risk for homelessness.

The HMIS has state-of-the art security features that ensure data remains strictly confidential; data is only provided to other agencies upon the permission of the client.

Seattle/King County uses this data to generate numerous types of reports that improve the ability of local organizations to provide access to housing and services, and strengthen our efforts to end homelessness. No identifiable information is included in these reports.

Who Uses the HMIS?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires any organization that provides services to homeless persons or those at risk of homelessness to enter data into the Seattle/King County HMIS.

Several examples include:

  • Emergency shelters
  • Transitional housing providers
  • Permanent supportive housing providers
  • Outreach Programs
  • Drop-in centers
  • Food Shelves

Our goal is to incorporate the data collected from all of these organizations in order to create a comprehensive view of homelessness in Seattle/King County so that we can better serve those in need.

Why is the HMIS Necessary?

The Seattle/King County HMIS uses data and reporting to meet the following objectives:

  1. Help those experiencing homelessness in King County achieve economic self-sufficiency.
  2. Help those at risk of homelessness maintain economic self-sufficiency.
  3. Preserve community funding and resources.

Who Benefits From the HMIS?

Benefits for men, women, and children who experience homelessness include:

  • A decrease in duplicative intakes and assessments
  • Streamlined referrals
  • Coordinated case management

Benefits for agency directors and program managers include:

  • Tracking client outcomes
  • Coordinating services, internally among agency programs, and externally with other providers
  • Preparing financial and programmatic reports for funders, boards, and other stakeholders
  • Information for program design decisions

Benefits for public policy makers and advocates include:

  • Understanding the extent and scope of homelessness
  • Unduplicated count
  • Identifying service gaps
  • Informing systems design and policy decisions
  • Development of a forum for addressing community-wide issues

Finally, HMIS meets a federal mandate, thus improving the Seattle/King County chances of continuing to receive at least its current level of HUD McKinney-Vento funding.

HMIS and Data Security

Potential risks of HMIS, like any system designed to manage protected data, include risks to personal privacy. Data privacy has been emphasized at every step in the development and operation of the Seattle/King County HMIS, from choosing software, to designing client notices, and crafting system-wide policies and procedures.

Seattle/King County utilizes the Clarity Human Services software as their HMIS. The Clarity Human Services data security model is extremely effective, and only allows people to see client information that they have permission to see. Additionally, before being able to use the system, agencies and end users within agencies must sign agreements indicating that they will uphold rigorous data privacy standards. Also, no personally identifiable information is made available to HUD via Seattle/King County’s HMIS.