SNAPS' Data Strategy

This message describes HUD’s data strategy and its vision for how communities should use data to best accomplish our ultimate goal of ending homelessness for individuals and families. HUD began requiring communities to implement Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) 15 years ago, and HMIS data quality and analysis is an increasingly important asset for ending homelessness.
Analyzing data in different ways—by population, subpopulation, across project types, and at the system level—and using that data in local decision making helps communities end homelessness. The more data is used by community leaders, providers, and others, the more likely they are to continuously improve data quality and demonstrate the importance of HMIS participation. To assist with this effort, HUD is releasing new products and tools, highlighting other recently released resources, and providing a timeline to help communities manage expectations. New products and tools will be posted on the new SNAPS Data Strategy and Usability page.

Data Quality

Earlier this year, HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) released a new data quality framework to help communities assess the accuracy of their data. To date, HUD’s expectations for data quality in HMIS have been primarily focused on HMIS bed coverage, “don’t know/refused” responses, and “null/missing” values. The new framework provides additional measures of data quality. Communities should use this framework to build upon existing data quality reports they already use. To help communities better manage their data quality, and to assist Continuums of Care (CoCs) and HMIS Leads in implementing their Data Quality Plan, SNAPS released a CoC Data Quality Brief. This brief focuses on all aspects of data quality, including completeness, accuracy, timeliness, and consistency.

System-Level Data Analysis

The annual CoC Program Competition will continue to increase the role of system-level performance, and will encourage communities to use their data for local decision making. To support this focus, HUD is releasing a series of System Performance Improvement briefs to examine data and performance at the system level: 1) Strategies for System Performance Improvement explores three key System Performance Measures: Length of Time Homeless, Exits to Permanent Housing, and Returns to Homelessness, and 2) Data Quality and Analysis provides guidance to identify potential data quality and performance issues affecting your System Performance Measures. These briefs, combined with the CoC Data Quality Brief, will give CoCs valuable information to improve different parts of the homeless assistance system.
HUD’s longer-term goal is to provide additional System Performance Improvement resources, including an analytical tool that helps communities to visualize and improve performance, and model an optimized system of care. This resource will be aligned with forthcoming redesigned Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) requirements and supported with additional system-level data quality checks to support ongoing data quality improvement.

Project-Level Data Analysis

Assessing performance at the system level is important and necessary, but to identify what needs improvement, communities must continue to evaluate project performance. HUD is helping CoCs to assess their projects’ performance more easily through an updated Annual Performance Report (APR) platform. Communities will submit the new APR via direct upload to the Sage HMIS Reporting Repository (Sage), which began in April 2017. The shift to Sage will enable recipients to submit their data using CSV imports and improve the ability of CoCs to access and evaluate their projects’ APR data. New project-level data quality metrics are built into the updated APR to allow CoCs and HMIS Leads to monitor individual projects’ data timeliness and completeness.

Data Strategy Timeline 2017–2018

In April 2017, CoCs began submitting their second year of System Performance Measures (SPM), and updating their first year’s submission, if desired, in HUD’s Homelessness Data Exchange (HDX). Communities also were required to submit information on data quality using indicators from HUD’s new data quality framework. The timeline below provides other important dates:
  • Spring 2017–HUD releases 2017 Data Standards updates to vendors
  • Late-Summer 2017–2017 Data Standards updates available to CoCs for training
  • October 1, 2017–2017 Data Standards updates in effect
  • Fall 2017–Submission of AHAR according to 2016 Data Standards
  • Spring 2018–HUD releases redesigned AHAR programming specifications to vendors
  • Summer 2018–CoC trainings and preparation for submission of redesigned AHAR
Achieving the standards of excellence needed in our data requires various partners to perform different and critical roles: HUD, federal partners, CoCs, HMIS System Administrators, HMIS vendors, service providers (across many funding types), case managers, outreach workers, and the people we serve every day. HUD is working to standardize communication to HMIS vendors, HMIS Lead staff and System Administrators, and CoCs about data standards changes and updated reporting requirements. HUD will continue to work with technical assistance providers to coordinate communication via existing vendor and System Administrator meetings, regional team presentations and meetings, and the field office communications.
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