HUD releases update to 2014 HMIS Data Standards

Yesterday, HUD released information pertaining to updates made to the latest HMIS data standards. While the majority of changes are relevant only to projects funded under RHY, VA or HOPWA, one major modification made represents changes to the series of questions asked at entry about the length of time someone has been homeless. These questions are referred to as “Time on Streets, Emergency Shelters or Safe Haven.”

The changes will go into effect on October 1, 2015, and information obtained from the current version of these questions will be migrated over to the new set by our vendor. Below is a screen shot from the updated HMIS Data Manual that shows the presentation of the new elements. Please refer to the manual itself for more guidance and information on asking these questions at the point of entry. We will also offer more guidance prior to the October release date.

3.17 Time on Streets ES or Safe Haven

MassHealth vs. State Health Insurance within the HMIS Assessment

When completing the Health Insurance section of the HUD Assessment for clients, please note that A-134 – Is the client covered by Medicaid? corresponds to MassHealth. In Massachusetts, MassHealth is synonymous with Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — combined in one program.

A-148 – Is the client currently covered by state health insurance for adults? should be answered with a “yes” only if the client is enrolled in ConnectorCare, a program for individuals or families in Massachusetts that are at or below 300 times the federal poverty level.

If you have any questions on how to answer the Health Insurance or any other type of HMIS questions, please call 617-349-6966 or email

Upcoming Webinar on Housing First

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is hosting a webinar on Thursday, July 9 from 3:00-4:30 PM EDT titled: Housing First for People Experiencing Serious Mental Illness (SMI) and Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders.

This webinar will provide practical information about implementing the Housing First model to serve people experiencing SMI or co-occurring disorders. Join the webinar to hear real life experience in implementation, learn tips and strategies for putting the theory into practice. Click here for additional details.

Space is limited. Reserve your webinar seat now at: After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Cambridge CoC Governance Charter: Annual Review and Update

The Cambridge CoC is required to review and update its Governance Charter on an annual basis (24 CFR Part 578.7). The original Charter was adopted by the CoC in April 2014 after several weeks of review and revisions by CoC stakeholders. To facilitate the annual review process in 2015, CoC staff have updated the document, and it is available for review here: GovernanceCharter_June2015_Revised

Comments and suggested revisions must be submitted by 5:00 PM (Eastern Time) on July 16, 2015 to All suggestions and revisions will be brought to the CoC’s Board who will make the final decision to approve the updated Governance Charter.

A few minor revisions have been made to the Governance Charter. They are summarized below for your convenience when reviewing the document.

Page # Description of revision
2 Removed the Coordinated Assessment Working Group from the
listing of Homeless Services Planning Committee (HSPC) subcommittees on page
3, and added its responsibilities (to establish and implement a coordinated
assessment and referral system, and to write written standards) to the
overall responsibilities of the HSPC.
3 Updated name of the Board subcommittee to match the name
used over course of past year (changed “Ranking Subcommittee” to “Evaluation
3 Added Emergency Solution Grant (ESG) funding allocation to
the responsibilities of the CoC Board’s Evaluation Panel.

2015 Cambridge Point-in-Time Count Report Available

On the night of February 25, 2015, staff from the Department of Human Service Programs, partner agencies, and community volunteers completed the annual count of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The census includes a count of individuals and families staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing, and a count of unsheltered individuals.

The unsheltered count took place overnight between February 25 and February 26, and would not have been possible without the dedicated volunteers, street outreach staff and provider community, and the incredible support from Professional Ambulance and the Cambridge Police Department.

Volunteers distributed care packages that included snacks donated by Whole Foods Fresh Pond, scarves created by the Many Helping Hands MLK Day volunteers, and beautiful handmade hats donated by the knitting group at the North Cambridge Senior Center.

Click here to read the summary report.

Seeking Members for System Mapping Committee

We are currently seeking CoC members to participate in our System Mapping Committee. This is an exciting opportunity to bring your knowledge and experience to the table in establishing a collaborative vision for improved coordination of services in Cambridge. Please see below for more information and to express your interest in joining the committee.

Resources for Homeless Veterans

The April 9th Homeless Services Planning Committee meeting featured presentations by a number of veteran-serving providers operating within the Cambridge CoC. We have uploaded PDF versions of the materials that were passed around by a few of those providers– please see below.

Update for Cambridge HMIS Users

At the March HSPC meeting I provided an overview of the changes to the HMIS data standards that are specific to CoC and ESG program funded projects. The handout from that meeting is linked below, and it is an updated version of the summary document published in September of 2014.

Summary of 2014 HMIS Data Standards (March 2015)

In addition, HMIS users should be aware of current software and workflow issues that may be confusing when working with active clients’ assessment records:

Issue: You are completing an Update or Annual Assessment for a client whose previous information was entered when the 2010 Data Standards were in effect — Whether you populate from a previous assessment or not, the TouchPoint record will include questions that should only be answered at Entry (A-4 through A-20). Since these are coded as required, you won’t be able to submit your other current information unless they are answered. However, answering these questions at any point other than Entry will not properly record the data needed for reporting purposes.

Solution: You should first edit the Entry assessment for the client, answering the questions on the first tab as well as any required and not answered on subsequent tabs, and then submit. Therefore, you will have updated the client’s record with 2014 Data Standards at the point where the answers will be captured for reporting. You can then complete the Update or Annual assessment TouchPoint, and if you populate from the previous assessment, you won’t be prompted to answer questions only required at Entry.

Issue: You are completing an Update or Annual Assessment and you choose to populate from the previous one taken, in order to bring in data that haven’t changed, including earned income. However, you notice the previous income information did not come over. 

Solution: You will need to be mindful of noting the type of income (assuming it is the same source since the last assessment) and the amount (again, if this has stayed the same) and enter this information over again. Of course, if this is part of what you are updating or recording as changed in an Update or Annual assessment, record the new information.

We recognize that these software issues add layers of confusion and extra work for staff entering data at this point in time. The vendor is aware of the issues and Cambridge and other HMIS leads are working to get improvements.

Please don’t hesitate to call me or your HMIS Site administrator if you get stuck or have any questions.