October 17, 2019


Papers and reports authored by Simtech Solutions which highlight emerging practices in using technology and data to align with Opening Doors and improve upon the work being done to prevent and end homelessness.  

Content Categories

White Papers [Back to Top]

  • Rethinking the Homeless Response Framework
    • Communities face many common challenges when attempting to effectively respond to the range of housing needs of individuals and families. At Simtech, we recognize the role that technology can play in improving the service delivery model. Examples of the current challenges to be overcome include:
      • Systems being too focused on reporting rather than the work of helping people;
      • Data is fragmented between providers, systems, and regions;
      • Coordinated Entry Systems are excluding the most vulnerable and service-resistant;
      • First responders, such as police and medical personnel, are often disconnected from coordinated entry systems;
      • Data entry is overly burdensome on staff;
    • Different funders have different requirements.
    • 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 data exchange protocols.  
  • Automating the Production of Performance Measurement Dashboards
      • While System Performance Measures (SPMs) are intended to provide a snapshot into the homeless response system as an entire coordinated initiative, Project Performance Measures (PPMs) allow policy makers and community leaders to evaluate both the proficiency and impact of each specific resource.  More details on the intersect between SPMs and PPMs can be found in the white paper we wrote on the subject found here. HUD has created formal specifications for SPMs but has yet to really delve into project performance measures themselves.  The Annual Performance Report (APR) is the closest candidate but, if the results are viewed in isolation, the APR figures lack context.  For a project to be measured for its proficiency, the results of the project need to be compared to the APR results of its peers.  For a project to be measured on growth, the results of the project need to compared to past results for that same project. This document provides an outline of the underlying technical work required to greatly simplify the process of preparing PPMs that can measure both proficiency and growth. 
  • Candid Review of the HUD System Performance Measures
    • Effective implementation of the System Performance Measures (SPMs) is essential to realizing the goals set forth in both the HEARTH Act and in Opening Doors.  In our support of regions that need to submit SPMs to HUD we have made several observations, and have formed some opinions, that we felt were worthy of sharing.  The hope in doing so is to be more strategic in how we go about understanding our collective impacts on the issue of homelessness.
  • The Role of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) in Meeting the Goals of Opening Doors
    • This paper provides detailed recommendations to HUD and to HMIS software vendors on the key changes that should be made in order to improve the technical infrastructure being used to quantify and address the issue of homelessness.  These key recommendations, which adhere to the software development methodology known as “service-oriented architecture” (SOA), include:
      • Implement web services for referrals;
      • Use a data warehouse to meet reporting needs;
      • Enroll clients into a project location, not just into a project;
      • Make resource information easily accessible;
      • Improve data quality with steps for both remediation and prevention; 
      • Use evidence, not self-reported data. 
  • Housing Prioritization Tools and the Proposed Chronic Homeless Definition
    • A proposed change to the chronic homeless definition refines the episode criteria to denote that the four or more episodes must entail a cumulative stay of at least one year.  This paper details the rationale for focusing housing prioritizations on cumulative bed utilization over the still undefined episode criteria.  Communities with a mature Housing First implementation, such as Quincy, MA, should be encouraged to target the next cohort of frequent users after they have assisted those that meet the HUD definition of chronically homeless.  The housing placement team in Quincy has refined their prioritization to now include clients with a cumulative stay of over 180 days during the previous year. 
  • Review of the Tools and Techniques Used to Prioritize Clients for Limited Housing Resources
    • In many regions around the country, the demand for affordable housing is greater than the supply. Wait lists have traditionally been the method of choice for determining who is “up next” to get housing. In order to improve their chances, people in need of housing are often encouraged by staff at multi-service agencies to get their names on as many lists as they can. The result is a myriad of decentralized and unwieldy lists. The individual or family that is next in line may not be the best suited for the unit that is available nor may they have as great of a demonstrated need for housing assistance as others further down the list. This paper provides a review of the strengths and weaknesses of the primary resource allocation strategies that are currently in place in the US.
  • Rationale for HUD and others to Adopt a Distributed Data Management Framework
    • The primary benefit of a distributed data management framework is that it is a cost-effective means to provide a greater level of transparency and accountability for Federal partners and taxpayers alike while improving our collective understanding of societal issues such as homelessness. Software applications such as those developed to comply with the HMIS Data Standards, mobile apps such as the Counting Us and Show the Way, and data from others sources such as the US Census Bureau can be used in conjunction with one another through a common framework to produce meaningful charts, maps, and reports.  This paper explains the process that is currently being used by the regions that are currently contracted to work with Simtech Solutions and the rationale for such a process. 

Community Plans and Reports [Back to Top]

Research [Back to Top]

  • Study of Morbidity Rates Among People Who Died While Experiencing Homelessness
    • Simtech Solutions manages a comprehensive HMIS data warehouse which contains more than 330,000 records of people experiencing, or who have experienced, homelessness. According to this data, the average age of death of the 646 people reported to have died while in a homeless project is 52 years of age. This is in contrast to the average life expectancy of a resident of the United States of 78.7 years.    
  • Father Bill’s & Mainspring Analysis of Shelter Utilization Patterns
    • The two major individual emergency shelters in the South Shore of Massachusetts, operated by Father Bill’s & MainSpring (FBMS), used stay pattern analysis to identify and house frequent users of shelter resources.  In 2004, the nightly bed occupancy at Father Bill’s Place in Quincy averaged 125 clients yet in 2007, after the creation of 40 Housing First units, this figure dropped to an average of 110 clients.  The number of chronically homeless individuals counted during the annual point in time counts reduced 55% from 142 to 63 during this same time period.  The street count dropped 44% from 252 to 139. This paper details the approach used to prioritize and select the individuals for housing.  
  • Usage of Data Analysis to Develop & Support Quincy, MA 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness
    • The Quincy/Weymouth Continuum of Care (CoC), located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, has adopted the use of local evidenced-based practices to drive program and policy design. The CoC has made a commitment to the collection and analysis of longitudinal data, captured primarily in the local Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), to gauge the effectiveness of homeless programs and inform progress on their local 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homeless. The use of local HMIS data has directly impacted both changes in policy in the CoC and the development of housing to meet specific homeless client needs
  • Proposed Reforms to the Massachusetts Emergency Shelter System (Nov. 2012)
    • This paper was written initially drafted in 2011 and was updated in 2012. While the Commonwealth of MA has made significant strides to improve systems and increase efficiencies over the last five years, there is still room to further automate processes and use data to improve outcomes. By adopting an “Opening Doors” approach that is strategic and outcome-oriented, the State can measure performance on key indicators  – such as length of homelessness and returns to homelessness. Data and technology are tools that are available that will ultimately reduce the overall costs to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the communities within the Commonwealth, will adequately support the housing needs of all individuals and families and ultimately reduce and end family homelessness in MA.

Tutorials [Back to Top]