The i-team recently began working with de-identified data in our local Homeless Management Information System (known as HMIS), through a partnership with King County. HMIS is an online database providers within the homeless response system use to collect information on services they provide to people experiencing homelessness, or who are at risk for homelessness. We will use HMIS to strengthen our understanding of the scope of YYA homeless and to test hypotheses we have developed based on our qualitative research. This qualitative research includes insights that we have developed through conversations with funders, providers, and our community’s young people.
In the sense that it feels like there is a vast ocean of information represented within the system, we’re beginning to dip our toes into the water. For inspiration we draw on deeper dives into the data on King County and All Home’s websites – please visit for beautiful representations of how our region’s system is performing in the service of our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness.
This post shares a few highlights from our initial effort to leverage HMIS’ capacity to inform our work. We wanted to begin enhancing our understanding of the scale of our local systems by answering a few questions:
- How many households are served in Emergency Shelters, Transitional Housing, and Permanent Housing programs (i.e., Rapid-Rehousing) each year?
- Of these households, how many are new enrollees in a given year, compared to those whose episode of homelessness and enrollment in a program began in a prior year?
- Separately, how many households are successfully exiting the system to permanent housing each year?
- How do these figures compare for households headed by those who entered the system as young adults (18-24 years old)?
Households Served in Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing, and Permanent Housing Programs
King County’s Continuum of Care (CoC) emergency shelter and transitional / permanent housing programs have served a growing number of households in recent years. The total increased by more than 75 percent from 2012 to 2016 (indicated in the figures at the top of each bar). The color coding shows the proportion of households in each year who either enrolled in CoC services that year, shown in blue, or who were continuing an episode of homelessness during which they enrolled in services in a prior year, in orange. This distinction shows us that the number of new household clients actually fell from 2015 to 2016, after increasing each year before this period. On the other hand, the number of households whose episode continued from one year to the next increased more rapidly from 2015 to 2016, and again into this year.
Young Adult (18-24 at Entry) Households Served in Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing, and Permanent Housing Programs
Last year, young adult households made up about 15 percent of all households served – a similar proportion to that of 2012. The total number of young adult households served increased by just under 50 percent from 2012 to 2016. A similar proportion of young adult household enrollees were new in 2016 to that of all households in the same year. More generally, major differences between the young adult subset and the entire general household groups are not apparent in these two charts.
Household Exits to Permanent Housing from Emergency Shelters, Transitional Housing, Permanent Housing Programs (i.e., Rapid-Rehousing), and Diversion
The group of households examined in the charts on exits to permanent housing differ slightly from the “households served” charts in that households in diversion programs are also included here. It seems our CoC has made gains in the number of households finding a successful placement into permanent housing each year, increasing by 70 percent from 2012 to 2016. On the other hand, it becomes clear we must learn to do more when considering the number of households served – without accounting for diversion program enrollees – increased by an even greater percentage over the same period of time, as illustrated by the first chart in this post.
Young Adult Household Exits to Permanent Housing from Emergency Shelters, Transitional Housing, Permanent Programs (i.e., Rapid-Rehousing), and Diversion
The number of young adult-led households making successful exits to permanent housing did increase from 2012 to 2016, by a little over 25 percent, but unfortunately the number also declined from a peak in 2014. This difference from the general household population demands further inquiry.
We know the system for youth and young adults is different. How has the design of the young adult system contributed to what we see in the data? Can this pattern be explained by a relatively innocuous phenomenon, related perhaps to programmatic efforts that eluded HMIS or the plateau in the number of young adult households served from 2015 to 2016?
Moving forward, we’ll continue to wade deeper and deeper into the data. Disaggregation by race/ethnicity and other characteristics will be a certain priority, but so will conversations with stakeholders who understand the deeper programmatic and human context behind the numbers. With their help, we’ll continue to push to find insight in the data behind our community’s stories.
Note: Charts in this post differ from similar graphs on All Home’s website. The data on All Home’s website are updated regularly, while the images above were created from a February 2017 extract. Additionally, the Young Adult charts here do not include minors (Youth) that are represented on All Home’s dashboards. Finally, the Young Adult charts on this post include households headed by 18-24 year-olds whose households may include other members, whereas the Youth and Young Adult households on All Home’s website only report households headed single young adults and minors.