October Newsletter – Strengthening Our System

Funding Opportunity: Housing Stability and Wellness

Serving Clients in Permanent Supportive Housing

hands holding a house

Destination: Home, in partnership with the County of Santa Clara would like to announce up to $240,000 in funding available to nonprofit corporations to enhance and increase housing stability for chronically homeless households participating in permanent supportive housing programs.

Since 2011, local homeless service providers have adopted a Housing-First philosophy and worked together to house chronically homeless men and women, some of whom had been homeless for more than 15 years. For many clients there is a recovery process as they adjust to being housed. The loss of stability, social roles, routines, and/or the uncertainty of where to sleep or find the next meal is a traumatic experience exacerbated by years on the streets.

Destination: Home is making funding available to service providers to develop and implement programs that will increase housing stability, wellness, and promote meaningful daily activities for clients participating in permanent supportive housing programs. Proposals can include (but are not limited to) developing peer support networks, mentors and advocacy, wellness, and social activities. Success will be measured in terms of housing retention and self-sufficiency matrix gains.

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Getting to Know Our HMIS System Providers

What it means for the community, partners and clients

As you may know, in 2015 the County of Santa Clara took on the lead role of administering the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), the community-wide database in which service providers track the service they provide to people who are homeless or at-risk. In that role, they make sure that we are meeting all of the regulatory requirements related to HMIS and manage the tracking of performance outcomes for our community. Today, we would like to introduce you to our HMIS System providers and give you more background on their work and upcoming plans.

Hilary Barroga - Continuum of Care (CoC) Quality Improvement Manager
Hilary Barroga Continuum of Care CoC Quality Improvement Manager

What is the CoC?

The CoC is a broad group of stakeholders dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness in our community. In addition to the increased effectiveness that such collective impact can bring, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to have an organized CoC in order to access certain funding. The key CoC responsibilities are ensuring community-wide implementation of efforts to end homelessness, as well as ensuring programmatic and systemic effectiveness.

What do you do in your role as CoC Quality Improvement Manager?

I oversee the CoC’s administrative requirements, including the HMIS. My team and I staff work group meetings, report on community-wide goals, lead planning processes, and various other duties. Our major duties include preparing the community’s annual CoC funding application to HUD (we’re eligible for approximately $20 million this year!) and ensuring that the biennial homeless census is completed. Finally, we provide technical assistance and policy guidance as it relates to regulatory compliance for CoC grants.

What are the CoC’s goals?

The CoC’s ultimate goal is to end and prevent homelessness in our community, and one of the ways that we will achieve that is to hold ourselves accountable to a common set of indicators that we’re getting closer to that ultimate goal. For the Santa Clara County CoC, our Performance Management Working Group – guided by standard Federal measures – has identified the following Community-wide Performance Measures:

  1. Reduction in the Length of Time People Remain Homeless
  2. Reduction in the Extent to which People who Leave Homelessness Experience Additional Spells of Homelessness (Recidivism)
  3. Overall Reduction in the Number of Homeless People
  4. Jobs and Income Growth for People who are Homeless
  5. Success at Reducing the Number of People who become Homeless (First Time Homeless)
  6. Successful Housing Placement and Retention
  7. Connection to Health Insurance and Health Services
  8. Percent of Housing Subsidies Leased Up
  9. Number of People Exiting Homelessness to Permanent Housing
  10. Number of New Housing Opportunities Added in Santa Clara County

Community and HUD Goals:

Coordinated Process entry system to help with 10 goals above, promoting the service that people need at the right intervention for their level of need.

Who does CoC report to?

The CoC is governed locally by the CoC Board. The CoC Board acts on behalf of the CoC. Its key purposes are to be the driving force behind systems change to end and prevent homelessness and to provide the resources to support system change. The CoC Board is responsible for ensuring that we meet the requirements that HUD has established for CoCs, and they delegate most of that work to the County’s Office of Supportive Housing through our designation as the CoC’s Collaborative Applicant and HMIS Lead.

What are your plans for the year?

Our priorities for the year are to strengthen the CoC’s operational infrastructure and plan the next phase of the coordinated assessment system. Coordinated assessment is the process by which we will ensure that homeless people are being matched to the right level of housing intervention based on their level of need.
We are launching the first phase of the coordinated assessment system to triage clients into permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing programs. The second phase will involve prioritization for shelter and transitional housing placements, and planning for that will start in January.

We are also working on how we will systematically publish reports for the CoC on our progress on the Community-Wide Performance Measures. Our transition over the past year into the role of HMIS Lead and of the HMIS software to Clarity Human Services by Bitfocus has been the cornerstone of preparing for this.

What do you like best about your job?

There are always new and different types of things to do. When it comes to “quality improvement,” we have the opportunity to identify ways to do things better. I don’t provide direct service to clients, but if I do my job well and make the system the best it can be, our will provide a higher quality service and be able to help more people achieve more lasting impacts. I know that my work is helping our community toward its goal of ending homelessness.

Jason Satterfield – Director of Policy and Evaluation, Bitfocus
Jason Satterfield Director of Policy and Evaluation Bitfocus

Why is HMIS important?

HMIS is a powerful tool in the effort to end homelessness. It can provide critical knowledge to inform decisions by policymakers and make the jobs of service delivery professionals easier.

How is this software an improvement over the last?

Compared to other HMIS platforms, Clarity is easier to use and allows you to use the data you’ve gathering in real time. All of our reports run in a matter minutes (not hours) and any data entered into the system is instantly available for use in reports and our other powerful analytics tools. With Clarity you can quickly use your data to gain insight and to move from insight to action.

What it means for our community partners?

Clarity provides many benefits for agency directors and program managers including:

  • 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

There are also many benefits for public policy makers and advocates, including:

  • 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

How does it benefit our clients?

Clarity can help to decrease duplicative intakes and assessments for clients, making their experience with the service system less frustrating and time-consuming. Clarity also makes referrals easy and creates a level of transparency that helps to ensure that they are acted upon in a timely manner. We also offer industry-leading coordinated case management tools that can speed up access to housing for the most vulnerable clients.

Who has access?

Before accessing Clarity users must complete comprehensive training, including detailed information about client privacy protections and release of information policies. The user must work for an agency that has entered into detailed agreements with the County about how data is protected. And finally, the user must sign an individual agreement that outlines their responsibilities to protect client privacy and follow security protocols.

Are there confidentiality protections?

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 Santa Clara County HMIS, from choosing software, to designing client notices, and crafting system-wide policies and procedures.

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 Santa Clara County’s HMIS.

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