Publications

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


  • Research[Back to Top]

    • 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), found early success with Housing First initiatives. 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 HUD Point In Time (PIT) data reflects some interesting trends that occurred as a result of these efforts. The chronic homeless population in the area dwindled significantly as Housing First units came online during this time period, from 142 to 63, and have continued to decline since. The total number of homeless individuals in shelter or on the streets showed a similar reduction from 2004 to 2007, from 252 to 139. Unfortunately, despite the continued success in reducing the counts of chronic homeless individuals in the region the total number of homeless individuals is still well above the counts from 2006 and 2007.

    • 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

  • Tutorials[Back to Top]

  • Whitepapers[Back to Top]

    • 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.

    • Opening Doors for Opportunity: Report on Homelessness in Bristol County (August, 2016)

      The South Coast Regional Network to End Homelessness aligns with the Federal Vision to end homelessness as outlined in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The Plan states, “No one should experience homelessness-no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.”

      Homelessness continues to be a major issue in Bristol County that is getting worse. This plan intends to lay the foundation to turn the trends around. While individual homelessness had been decreasing in earlier years, there was a significant increase (33%) between 2013 and 2014. From 2014 to 2015, there was a large spike in both individual and family homelessness - an overall increase of nearly 18% in one year. From 2015 to 2016, there was an additional 10% increase, although there has been a small drop in family homelessness.

      Through this Plan, SoCo moves from a partnership to a united influence to reduce, prevent, and eliminate homelessness for individuals and families in Bristol County. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness will serve as the framework for the region to evaluate the interventions being used, and to improve the services we provide. 

       

    • Western MA Opening Doors (June, 2015)

      Western MA Opening Doors sets forth a framework to end homelessness throughout Western Massachusetts. Simtech Solutions partnered with the Western MA Network to End Homelessness to develop , write and publish this report to drive ongoing collective impact work to meet the goals of "Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness"

    • The Role of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) in Meeting the Goals of Opening Doors

      Regions are often guided by HUD technical assistance providers that all of the non-profits within the Continuum of Care (CoC) should use the same HMIS data system.  The well-intentioned thought behind this suggested approach is that this is the only way for coordinated entry to become a realization.  Here are some of the more significant issues with this approach:

      • Agencies often serve clients beyond the footprint of a single region.  
      • The geographic boundaries of the Federal partner agencies do not align. 
      • Forcing the usage of a common system inadvertently creates barriers for cross-region collaboration. 
      • This approach disregards any agency-specific needs that may be different than those of their peers. 
      • HUD is currently encouraging CoCs to merge.  
      • Not all agencies participate in HMIS. 

      The intent of this paper is to share an alternative approach that both allows for coordinated entry and overcomes these various issues.  The suggested approach is to encourage the adoption of a services-oriented architecture (SOA) as this is the glue that will allow disparate systems to work cohesively with one another.  SOA is a software design practice in which applications components can communicate with other components via established communications protocols.

    • 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. 

      Comments on the proposed HUD chronic definition can be submitted via www.Regulations.gov and are due by May 28, 2013.

    • 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 HUD Point In Time Counting Tool 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. 

    • Proposed Reforms to the Massachusetts Emergency Shelter System (Nov. 2012)

      This paper was written initialy 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 processess and use data to improve outcomes. By adapting 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.