Santa Clara County HMIS News, June 2018

Welcome to the Santa Clara HMIS Newsletter! In this edition you'll find the following:

New Coordinated Entry Feature!

Bitfocus recently released a bunch of new features for Clarity Human Services, some of which you may already be seeing, and some that will be showing up shortly. Read more about one exciting update below!

Missing Location Warning When on Community Queue

This new feature updates a client's profile screen to quickly provide you with important Coordinated Entry information:

  1. A new section under the client's photo and Clarity ID helps you quickly identify whether a client is on the Community Queue. If the client is on the Queue, you can click "View Details" to go directly to their Queue referral.
  2. If a client is on the Community Queue and does not have current contact information on the Location tab, a warning displays to let you know. Clicking the "Add" link will take you directly to the Location tab so that you can enter contact information.
You will be seeing more features over the next few months - stay tuned for more updates in future HMIS newsletters!

Data Quality Lab - Part 3 - Missing Data

Over the next several months we will be working with providers and other stakeholders to identify and address a range of data quality issues. This is part 3 of a multi-part series to help HMIS users troubleshoot data quality in HMIS. Follow the instructions in each of these data quality labs to establish a baseline of high quality data for your projects in HMIS! Previous articles: Part 1 - Getting Group Enrollments Right; Part 2 - Dangling Enrollments

We have both HUD and local funder expectations around missing data, which are documented in our Continuous Data Quality Improvement Plan. Don’t have time to read through it? Let me summarize! For all Universal Data Elements we are expected to have missing rates of 5% or less, with one exception: shelters and outreach programs are expected to have missing rates for Destination at Exit of 30% of less.

What is “missing data?”

Data is considered missing when nothing has been entered into a field (the obvious definition of missing), but ALSO when any of the following values are selected:

  • Client doesn’t know
  • Client refused
  • Data not collected

We collect lots of data in HMIS, but missing data rates are only calculated on our Universal Data Elements:

Why missing data matters

It might seem like HUD and other funders are just being excessively precise and oblivious to the realities of actually serving clients when expecting 95% data completeness, but really, they just want to understand everything they can about people experiencing homelessness. Every additional transgender, or veteran, or Native American client we identify in HMIS results in a better understanding of who’s homeless, which projects result in the best outcomes for them, and how to target our services accordingly. Sure, identifying one more veteran may not make any difference to the overall picture of veteran homelessness, but when we start looking at the intersectional identities of our clients to determine what homelessness looks like for transgender clients over sixty, or Native American veterans with physical disabilities, every additional person counted makes a difference.

Aren’t there times when it’s not possible to collect the data?

Yes, but less often than you might think...

Data for non-consenting clients. When clients don’t (or can’t) sign an ROI, they are only refusing consent to have identifying information stored in HMIS, which only includes name, date of birth and social security number. Unless there’s a special circumstance where additional information might identify a client (like rural areas where the combination of race and disability might apply to so few clients that an identity might be revealed), all other Universal Data Elements should be collected.

Exit data for intermittent projects. In projects like day shelters and night by night emergency shelters, clients may not have an ongoing relationship with the project and may one day simply stop showing up for services. Since clients may use services intermittently, it might not be clear that a client is no longer being served until after a month or two of absence. That can make it difficult or impossible to collect exit data for these clients. However, if you think you know what a client's exit destination is, it's acceptable to document it even if you aren't sure. And if you find out information later about a client's exit, it's fine (and encouraged!) to go back and update the client's exit information.

What are our current missing rates?

Note: This chart does not include elements that Clarity Human Services calculates automatically (i.e. Relationship to Head of Household) and/or elements for which a missing rate cannot be clearly determined (i.e. Project Entry Date).

How to review and improve missing data rates...


At the Agency/Project Level

HUD’s new data quality report ([HUDX-225] HMIS Data Quality Report under HUD Reports in the Clarity Human Services Report Library) captures missing data for your choice of projects or your whole agency. Tables Q2 through Q6 cover all the Universal Data Elements and not only identify missing rates, but also additional “data issues” that go beyond whether the data are present or not (for example, dates of birth that occur after project enrollment dates). For more details on this report, as well as a complete list of how HUD defines these data issues, check out our HMIS Data Quality Report Guide.

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To review your missing data rates, complete the following steps:

  1. Choose a time period for which to review data. For example, you might want to look at 2018 year-to-date missing rates to get a sense of the big picture of the state of your data, or, after you’ve begun work to improve your rates, you might want look only at the past month to determine whether your rates are improving.

  2. Choose the project or projects you wish to review. Since some project types may have lower or higher rates (for example, PSH projects versus night-by-night emergency shelters), you may wish to look at a group of projects by project type. You may also wish to review projects one by one to determine whether certain projects are outliers in terms of data completeness.

  3. Run the [HUDX-225] HMIS Data Quality Report.

At the Staff Level

Some staff may be better than others at entering complete data into HMIS. To review data completeness rates by staff, we recommend the [DQXX-103] Monthly Staff Report. Although this report doesn’t break down missing rates by specific data elements, it does show the total missing rate for all staff over the selected time period. It’s a helpful report to use to review which staff may need additional support around collecting client data, and, after you’ve implemented steps to improve missing data, which staff are successfully improving their rates.

To learn more [DQXX-103] Monthly Staff Report check out our guide. Remember, this report is also automatically emailed to your HMIS Agency Lead on a monthly basis.


All About Enrollments

When serving a client there are often a number of steps you need to take to document that work in HMIS, and it can be unclear why those steps are important. Enrolling a client into your program is one of those steps, one you'll generally take near the beginning of your relationship with the client, and it's one of the most important. Read on to learn more about enrollments, why they're important, and some common sources of confusion when it comes to enrolling clients.

What is an "enrollment?"

After a client has been entered into the system, you enroll a client into your program to establish that your program is serving this client and to get "credit" for the work you're doing. Different project types enroll clients at different points:

  • Street Outreach: Enroll clients at the point of first contact.
  • Emergency Shelter: Enroll clients the day (night) they first stay in the shelter. Night by night shelters should enroll clients and then allow them to re-enter as necessary without “exiting” and “re-enrolling” for each stay. Clients only get exited from the program once a specified period of inactivity has passed or if you know that a client will be exiting the program to a specific destination (for example, if you know the client is exiting to a permanent destination). 
  • Safe Haven and Transitional Housing: Enroll clients on the date they move into the residential project.
  • Permanent Housing and Rapid Re-Housing: Enroll clients on the date they were admitted into the project, even if they haven't moved in yet. "Admitted" means that the client meet the criteria for admission, the client has indicated they want to be housed in this project, and they are able to begin accessing services in the project.
  • All Other Projects: Enroll clients on the date they first began working with the project and received the first provision of service.

Why is it important to enroll clients into my program?

Although some programs track some client interactions outside of an enrollment, an enrollment in HMIS is how your connection to a client is captured. Without an enrollment, your program likely won't get credit for serving that client, and on reports and community outcomes it will look like your program is serving fewer people than you are actually serving. Without having a defined period for which a client is enrolled in your program, you won't be able to identify an exit point and determine whether your client achieved particular outcomes at exit. And then finally, Clarity Human Services has a lot of functionality that works on the assumption that clients are enrolled in programs. You can't assign a case manager to a client without an enrollment, many reports will not display accurate counts without enrollments, and you can't indicate that a household group was served together without an enrollment.

Tricky Date Situations

Above we described when enrollments should start (which is tracked in HMIS in the "Project Start" field), but sometimes programs track other dates as well, and it can be confusing to know what the different dates mean.

Project Start Date vs. Engagement Date

Outreach programs and night-by-night emergency shelters both track "Date of Engagement" in addition to "Project Start." What's the difference? Date of Engagement is the date on which interaction with the client results in a deliberate client assessment or beginning of a case plan. This date may be on or after the Project Start Date. Depending on the client's receptiveness and level of service engagement, the client may exit your program before you get to the point where an engagement date is warranted, and thus that field would remain empty.

Project Start Date vs. Move-in Date

All permanent housing projects collect "Housing Move-in Date in addition to "Project Start." Historically this data element was collected only for rapid rehousing projects, since it would generally take time for a program to work with a client before they located and moved into housing, but as of October 2017, this element became required for all permanent housing programs, giving programs an opportunity to document engagement and service work with a client that occurs before the client actually moves into housing. In some cases, when a housing plan is disrupted for some reason, it's possible to enroll a client into your program, and then exit them without ever entering a move-in date. Move in date can be the same as the enrollment date, but it cannot occur before the enrollment date.

Project Start Date vs. Project End Date

This one might seem more straightforward: you enter the enrollment date for project start, and the date a client exits the program for project end. However, one important issue with these two dates is that they cannot occur on the same date. If you enroll a client and need to immediately exit them, your exit date should be, at a minimum, the day after the enrollment date. 

Bitfocus Is Hiring!

Passionate about bringing ideas, technology, and data together to help our community end homelessness? Join our innovative team at Bitfocus! We are looking for a Bay Area Systems Analyst and have other positions open as well. Check out our open positions at

Upcoming Events


In July, the Performance Management Work Group and HMIS Agency Administrator meeting will be held back-to-back on Thursday, July 5:

  • 1:30-2:30pm: Performance Management Work Group
  • 2:30-3:30pm: HMIS Agency Administrator Meeting

Location: Sobrato Conference Center, 600 Valley Way, Room 1, Milpitas, CA 95035

The Coordinated Assessment Work Group will take place Tuesday, July 12 at 1:30pm at the Health Trust Foundation Office, 3180 Newberry Drive, Suite 200, San Jose CA, 95118.

Dates and locations for all 2018 Work Group and Agency Administrator meetings are listed on the OSH website.

HMIS and VI-SPDAT Trainings:

Data Literacy Institute:

The Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing (OSH), in collaboration with the CoC, is launching a Data Literacy Institute over the next few months. The institute will consist of a series of training opportunities and development of learning materials for the CoC and community partners. The goal of the institute is to help staff at all levels enhance their understanding of the data collected in HMIS, how to measure program performance, and how to use data to effectively communicate the success of your programs.

Current Data Literacy Institute trainings include:

Coming Soon: 

  • Reports Webinar: Want to learn more about the clients you serve but not sure which of the many reports in the Reports Library will give you what you need? Want to know the easiest report to use to easily review the data for your programs? We'll be holding a webinar soon that will help! Stayed tuned for more updates in the next few weeks.

Stay tuned for more Data Literacy events in future HMIS newsletters!

Report Spotlight: [EXIT-101] Potential Exits

Want to make sure you’re exiting clients your night-by-night shelter is no longer serving? Have a day center with automatic exits and need to catch clients before they get exited? Want to check which clients your outreach project hasn’t seen in awhile? [EXIT-101] Potential Exits can help with all of these.

[EXIT-101] Potential Exits allows you to specify a date and then shows you all clients who haven’t had a service since that date, as well as the last service they received and the date of that service.

Note: This report is based on services and thus is only useful for projects that regularly document services in HMIS. 

To run [EXIT-101] Potential Exits:

  1. Log in to Clarity Human Services and navigate to the Report Library (Reports under the Launcher menu in the upper right corner).
  2. Locate [EXIT-101] Potential Exits under the Program Based Reports section.
  3. Under Program(s) select one or more programs for which to run the report.
  4. For Cut Off Date indicate the last date the client could have received services. For example, if you want to see clients who haven’t received services in the past three months, enter a date of three months ago.
  5. Under Report Output Format select Web PagePDF or Excel  (choosing Web Page will allow you to click on the client name or ID and automatically open up the client profile in Clarity Human Services.
  6. Click the OK button.
Questions? Your HMIS Administrator is happy to help.
Phone: 408.596.5866 x2

© 2018 Bitfocus, Inc., or its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
Clarity Human Services is a product of Bitfocus.


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