Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance

Icon

Best Practice | August 11, 2006

When seeking to prevent homelessness, it is important to know and quantify where homeless people come from. Such data would indicate where prevention efforts could be productive. One source of homeless people is public systems of care or custody.


The Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA), which seeks to end homelessness for single adults in Massachusetts, has collected nightly census data from adult shelters in the state since 1992. Beginning in 1997, it began a Subpopulation Census: the collection of shelter based data on new guests entering from certain specific state systems of care, treatment and custody. This data indicates which public systems of care are discharging people into shelter.


MHSA recommends this data collection system as an important tool to address homelessness. It is relatively simple, since shelters already collect the information -- MHSA simply collates it statewide. This subpopulation census provides the basis for much of MHSA's work in understanding the routes into homelessness from state systems without adequate or appropriate discharge planning practices, protocols, or residential resources. Attached is an example of the subpopulation outcomes and a sample data collection tool that can be adapted to local issues and circumstances. The MHSA form is changed only in January of each year and is kept to a one-page limit. Shelters complete it monthly and forward it to MHSA to be aggregated into monthly and annual reports. Providers receive an annual updated list of facilities and categories so that they can amplify answers self-reported by guests.


For more information, contact:


Mailing Address:

 

Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance

P.O. Box 210070

Boston, MA 02112

Phone: (617) 367-6447

Fax: (617) 367-5709

Email: info@mhsa.net

 

Physical Address:

 

Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance

25 Kingston St. #3F

Boston, MA 02112

Phone: (617) 367-6447

Fax: (617) 367-5709

Email: info@mhsa.net