October 21, 2019


The following is a list of presentations by Simtech Solutions staff on the usage of innovative technologies to support community goals of ending homelessness.  Presentations can be downloaded by clicking the session title.  

Utilizing HMIS and non-HMIS Data to Support Racial Equity

Presented at: National Human Services Data Consortium (NHSDC)

Presented on: 04/26/2021

Kansas City, MS is a melting pot that consists of people of all forms of race, culture, and socioeconomic background. Unfortunately, we live in a society where not all people are treated equitably. In this session, we will provide an overview of the tools and resources that we are using to evaluate potential disparities in outcomes so that we can lean in on the policies and practices to address any inequities that are uncovered. The data sets to be used for our analysis include geospatial data from the US Census, as well as GPS-enabled data gathered by volunteers during the annual homeless census and the ongoing data collection of street outreach. During this session we will also discuss the actions that are being taken to utilize the findings to help ensure we that our community’s response to homelessness is an equitable one.

Click the image to view a recording of the Session.

Supporting People Experiencing Homelessness During Natural Disasters & COVID with Mobile Tech

Presented at: Good Tech Fest

Presented on: 05/20/2020

Rapidly deployed GPS-enabled surveying tools, and the understanding that can be derived with the aid of geospatial reporting, can play a key role in providing targeted assistance to those in need. In addition to supporting automated PIT counts in forty-seven (47) regions across the US in 2019, the technology has also been used to support a rapid-response to natural disasters and COVID. For example, Texas Balance of State and Houston were able to quickly deploy the app to help triage over two-thousand people who had become homeless due to the flooding as a result of hurricane Harvey. Using this tech, volunteers and first responders in regions without internet access are able to still complete geo-tagged surveys and submit them when the user comes back online. This enables this vital data capture to still continue even during times when the entire grid is offline.

It is our hope that by sharing this work that we can propel the discussions forward on the steps that need to be taken to deploy technologies that will enable our communities to more readily respond to crisis – whether the crisis takes the form of the slow progression of economic inequality or the fast-paced destruction of hurricanes or wildfires.

Tools and Support for Local Covid-19 Response

Webinar Hosted by the National Alliance to End Homelessness

Presented on: 04/21/2020

Mobile Technology is a valuable tool in local emergency responses to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This presentation details tools available from Simtech Solutions and how they can be applied to improve efforts to support Shelter-in-Place, tracking resource needs and allocation, conducting health screenings, and more! Examples of communities using these tools are provided, including San Diego and Gulfport, MS. Geo-spatial, customized surveys that follow CDC Guidance are helpful for drilling down into specific, local needs and quickly identify both gaps and solutions.

PIT Count Planning and AnalysisAided by Open Data and Open Source Tools

Presented at: National Homeless Services Data Consortium, Nashville, TN

Presented on: 04/15-04/17/2019

The planning process for conducting an accurate point in time homeless count in larger regions such as Texas Balance of State, King County, and Dallas can be a daunting undertaking. Like any large project, it is often best to break this work down into manageable tasks and to use lessons learned by others to help inform the process. In this presentation, we will provide an overview of how open source and free tools can be utilized alongside both open and private data sets to inform the entire count process. Topics covered include recruiting volunteers, using historical data to establish count routes, creating balanced count teams, monitoring the count, establishing a sampling and enumeration methodology (if needed), and using open source tools such as QGIS and Tableau, and using open data sets such as US Census and the HUD GIS Tools to analyze the data for racial disparities.

Racial Disparities Analysis Using Data from Homeless Response Systems

Presented at: National Homeless Services Data Consortium, Nashville, TN

Presented on: 04/15-04/17/2019

In response to one of HUD’s questions from the 2019 CoC funding application, our team analyzed how equitably our CoC is serving different racial/ethnic groups in terms of receiving homelessness services, prioritizing those services, and housing success rate. We determined that an unbiased homeless system would serve each racial/ethnic group at the same rate that each group experiences homelessness. Using data from the United States Census Bureau and our HMIS, we compared these rates from before and after the implementation of a coordinated entry system to determine if program entry requirements would result in a less biased system. We gathered information on how local systemic discrimination has led to disproportionate numbers of people of color living in poverty and homelessness, compared levels of vulnerability (disability status, VI-SPDAT scores) between the different groups, and studied how the rates at which each race/ethnicity is served differs by housing provider types. Ultimately, we found that we serve all individuals more equally now, but people of color can still greatly benefit from restructuring the social systems that put them more at risk of homelessness. We believe that our method could be of use to other communities looking for a way to ensure equity among the groups they serve.

Rethinking the Homelessness Response Framework

Presented at: National Homeless Services Data Consortium, Nashville, TN

Presented on: 04/15-04/17/2019

Communities face many common challenges when attempting to effectively respond to the range of housing needs of individuals and families. To overcome these challenges, multiple technical objects, or services, can be integrated into a singular framework. Each service within the framework fulfills a specific functional requirement and works seamlessly with the other services through the adoption of established APIs and data exchange protocols. In this presentation, we share this development practice, known as “Service-Oriented Architecture” (SOA), and have an informed discussion on how this practice might revolutionize our collective approach for responding to homelessness. We highlight how the SOA approach has supported work to measure the impact of natural disasters, identify racial disparities, inform prioritization for coordinated entry, and measure system and project performance.

Refining Coordinated Entry to Better Connect with People Living on the Streets

Presented at: San Antonio Mayor’s Housing Summit

Presented on: 09/18/2018

A key tenet of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness is to create a “No Wrong Door” coordinated entry system.  While HMIS is an entry point for the majority of Federally funded projects, there are still several other entry and exit points within a community that HMIS does not cover.  Charlotte, San Antonio, and Houston shared a common goal of reducing the number of closed doors and decided to participate in a pilot project aimed at addressing this issue.  During this session, we share details on the obstacles that need to be overcome to extend coordinated entry to include street outreach, first responders, and providers that aren’t funded by HUD.  This will be followed by an overview of the design, development, and implementation phases that ensued as well as a status update of where each community is within the process of broadening their homelessness response frameworks to be more inclusive.

When CE Best Practices Don’t Work: Setting up CE in Regions with Closed and Fragmented Data Systems

Presented at: NHSDC Conference, Pittsburgh PA

Presented on: 04/18/2018

HUD has required that regions have a Coordinated Entry System in place by January 23, 2018. We’ve seen best practices from many regions who have a single, open, HMIS system and have strong participation rates. What about regions who do not? Some regions have providers that use different HMIS software or don’t use HMIS at all. Others have a compelling need to include first responders and street outreach workers into the CE framework. And then there are the regions with a closed-HMIS that have difficulty when it comes to putting the “coordinated” into “coordinated entry”. Even with all of these components figured out, then there is the need to come to a common agreement on how to prioritize people for housing opportunities that might arise, and what additional assessments should be conducted (if any). During this session we will share the experiences in working with regions for whom the commonly used best practices don’t seem to cut it.

Measuring the Impact of Natural Disasters on the Homeless System

Presented at: NHSDC Conference, Pittsburgh PA

Presented on: 04/17/2018

Collecting PIT data in communities impacted by natural disasters is essential to assure regions are not penalized. Data also helps to further inform recommendations on long-term disaster recovery to the State Agencies so they may better know how to utilize Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds. By measuring this impact, the disaster results are normalized so that these regions are treated fairly when compared to areas that were not directly impacted. The work is made possible through the adoption of GPS-enabled mobile technologies that enable impacted communities to gather and report geo-spatial information in ways that traditional HMIS or paper-based count methodologies.

Rapid Deployment of a Homeless Response Framework

Presented at: NHSDC

Presented on: 10/11/2017

The communities of Houston and Corpus Christi quickly designed, developed, and implemented a technical framework to support the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.  This presentation included an overview on the challenges that were faced, followed by a discussion of how a services-oriented architecture (SOA) and integration with HMIS was leveraged to maximize the use of data to target the response.  Attendees were provided with a blueprint for how they might also respond to natural disasters, or other crises in their communities, using an integrated mix of open source and proprietary technologies.  

Tools and Techniques for Conducting Reliable Point in Time Counts in Large Areas

Presented at: NHSDC Conference, Salt Lake City, UT

Presented on: 04/24/2017

Coordinating accurate PIT count is a challenge even for small regions. Both Connecticut and San Antonio used paper-based counts but moved to mobile tech and dashboards. San Antonio conducted a blitz count with full canvassing while Connecticut used geographic-sampling. We will show how geospatial survey data collected with mobile devices along with GIS and reporting tools is superior to paper. We will cover the pre-count planning process, review statistical analysis required for sampling, logic used for CoC and statewide estimates, post count clean-up, and lessons learned.

We Have the Results from our System Performance Measures, Now What?

Presented at: NHSDC Conference, Salt Lake City, UT

Presented on: 04/26/2017

During this session, we will provide an overview of how project-level performance measures, using count results culled from APRs and PIT reports, can serve as an effective alternative to large data warehouses that require client consent in order to co-mingle data. We will walk through the process we are taking in Detroit to ensure that the SPM results are valid, share how regional administrators can use project-level performance measures to identify both high and low performing projects, and share the Tableau reports we are using to help Detroit have a better understanding of the efficacy of the various projects in the area. 

Detroit, like many regions, understands that HMIS is a treasure trove of information that is waiting to be unlocked. The Detroit CoC has a 96% adaption rate of HMIS and is able to comply with HUD requirements. However, HUD reports do not meet all the needs of various stakeholders in the region including the needs to drive policy, evaluate performance, identify gaps and tell the local stories about homelessness.

System Performance Measures (SPMs) are useful for highlighting areas in the City that are in need of attention but fall short however when it comes time to decide what action steps should be implemented to address the issues.  The primary issue is that the results of the SPM reports lack context.  Are the numbers an accurate reflection of what is happening in our region?  Are the SPM report results good or bad?  What projects are making the most significant impact on these SPM figures?

Regional Approached to Coordinated Assessment, Prioritization and Housing Placement

Presented at: CAHP Presentation Denver,CO

Presented on: 04/16/2015

In this session we will share accomplishments, lessons learned, and obstacles that remain for regions that have participated in the 25 Cities, Zero: 2016, and Mayor’s Challenge initiatives.  The approaches that have been taken are varied with some deciding to build out their Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement (CAHP) system directly in HMIS and others choosing to build their coordinated assessment system outside of HMIS.  The approaches taken for prioritizing clients for limited housing resources also vary.  Chronic homeless status, VI-SPDAT scores, frequency of shelter utilization, and medical vulnerability are all factors that can come into play when deciding which client should be next in line for housing.  Housing placement is made stronger and more likely with increased participation and support from Federal partners such as HUD and the VA.  We will explain how the CAHP system in Boston was structured to allow for VA participation, discuss the work being done to prioritize and match veterans and the chronically homeless to housing, and cover the development of the pilot CAHP pilot project in the seven-county Denver metropolitan area. The presentation will conclude with a conversation about the work that remains ahead if regions are to be successful in meeting their aggressive goals of ending veteran and chronic homelessness.

Adopting the HUD Point in Time Mobile App to Assist with Regional Counts

Presented at: NHSDC Conference Arlington, VA

Presented on: 10/10/2013

The annual point in time (PIT) homeless census is an instrumental effort conducted for the purpose of ascertaining the true scope of homelessness both locally and nationally.  Results from both the 2011 and 2012 census showed that 38% of all homeless were residing in unsheltered locations. Despite recent advances in technology most regions still rely on paper-based surveys and a manual process for tabulating their street counts.  In this session we will share the free “Point In Time Counting Tools” mobile app, discuss the rationale for such a tool, how it can benefit the interaction with clients, share results and user feedback from the beta tests, and provide guidance on how the app can be integrated within regional data collection and reporting processes.

Rethinking the Traditional Reporting Model

Presented at: NHSDC Conference Seattle

Presented on: 04/26/2013

Reporting As A Service (RAAS) is an alternative to the traditional vendor-centric approach. RAAS allows for one set of reporting tools to be developed, tested, and maintained for all to share rather than to have each vendor attempt to perform the process on their own. RAAS can be accomplished via the traditional data warehousing approach, whereby the data is sent to the reporting platform, or can be conducted using the Distributed Reporting Model (DRM) where the tools are sent to wherever the data resides. In this session, the presenter will share examples of how these two approaches have been put into effective use and how, when used in concert with other innovative technologies, they are helping to deliver a heightened level of understanding, accountability, and transparency to the work of ending homelessness. 

Tools and Techniques for Ensuring an Accurate HMIS Implementation

Presented at: National Human Services Data Consortium (NHSDC)

Presented on: 10/12/2012

In this session we reviewed the process for ensuring an HMIS is compliant with published regulations by sharing with attendees HUD endorsed tools that are being used to validate both of the HUD data exchange formats, the HUD APR, the HPRP APR, and the QPR. Tools to ascertain whether or not the data being reported over is of sound quality will be shown and will be followed with a discussion on remediation strategies. The review process will be followed by an overview of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) which will highlight key details that any good SLA should cover.