October 15, 2004
HUD CLARIFIES REPORTING FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTERS - DATA COLLECTION WILL FURTHER PROTECT VICTIMS' PRIVACY & SAFETY
Clarification will help homeless persons served by domestic violence shelters and programs
WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today issued additional guidance for the collection of homeless information by domestic violence shelters around the country. HUD's clarification will allow domestic violence shelters to withhold their clients' personal identifying information from the data they report to their local communities. This will further protect victims' confidentiality while helping to design better programs to house and serve persons and families who are homeless.
To satisfy a Congressional directive to help develop and implement local Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), HUD published final standards last July for collecting local homeless data. The standards require eight layers of security with additional privacy protections for all HMIS systems. These standards set a new threshold for collecting client information without exposing victims to further abuse.
"Our concern for the safety of victims of domestic violence was key in developing HUD's HMIS standards," said Patricia Carlile, HUD's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs Programs. "This clarification illustrates our commitment to protect the confidentiality of those served by our programs, including victims of domestic violence. Ultimately, this will lead to a better understanding of the extent and nature of homelessness."
Background on HMIS
In 2001, Congress directed HUD to develop a better way to document homelessness, both nationally and at the local level. Currently, communities conduct "head counts" of their homeless population when seeking HUD funding. These one-day, point-in-time snapshots tend to over-represent homeless persons with the most chronic problems, while under-representing those facing situational crises. These conventional tracking methods are also vulnerable to seasonal fluctuations in homeless service use. Moreover, these limited counts fail to provide a broader look at the extent of homelessness. HMIS would provide local communities and HUD with an unduplicated count of homeless persons as well as important information about why people are homeless. This data will, in turn, help drive policy and programs that can more effectively serve those without a home to call their own.
HUD will not require domestic violence shelters to submit client names and social security numbers to a central location operated by their local community or "continuum of care." Domestic violence programs can choose to use a proxy, coded, encrypted or other unique identifiers that will protect the confidentiality of their clients. These identifiers will allow local continuums to produce an unduplicated homeless count while providing critical information to better serve people who are homeless and report their aggregate data to HUD.
Communities like Cincinnati have long been using encryption techniques based upon this method to protect their clients and generate unduplicated data and analysis locally.
Michelle Budzek of the Partnership Center in Cincinnati said, "This clarification, I believe, will go a long way toward creating an HMIS system everyone, including domestic violence shelter providers, can live with. I'm convinced that together, domestic violence agencies and their local communities can use the clarifications to find solutions that will protect client privacy and give shelter providers the confidence to use HMIS to its maximum extent."
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov.
NOTE: To view the full text of HUD's HMIS Clarification, visit HUD's website.