Homelessness is a complex issue. As a result, collecting and analyzing data related to homelessness is challenging.
The primary source of homelessness data comes from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). This database compiles information when someone interacts with the homeless services system daily. Providers across Maricopa County use the service. Each quarter, the data helps create the Homelessness Trends Report. The region also completes an annual Point in Time Count that provides a helpful snapshot of people experiencing homelessness each year. The count, required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is part of a national effort to identify the extent of homelessness throughout the country. It includes a brief survey to identify the needs of those experiencing homelessness in the community.
Beyond these two primary sources of data, there are many other entities people experiencing homelessness interact with who also collect data: the Department of Education for children experiencing homelessness, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) for members experiencing homelessness, Community Action Programs for people on the verge of experiencing homelessness, and faith-based agencies who are providing services to prevent homelessness.
While new data continues to paint the complete picture of homelessness, services are still provided in siloes without the ability to share data across organizations. As a result, the data describing homelessness is difficult to compare, with no one source providing all the answers. Across entities, there are differing definitions of who is included in homelessness and what data is collected, all based on whom the entity interacts with.