Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is a requirement of the Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency. The requirement for HMIS was established via the HEARTH Act in 2009 with the goal of providing better, more accurate information about the homeless population to guide policymakers.
From the HUD Exchange website
The HEARTH Act, enacted into law on May 20, 2009, requires that all communities have an HMIS with the capacity to collect unduplicated counts of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Through their HMIS, a community should be able to collect information from projects serving homeless families and individuals to use as part of their needs analyses and to establish funding priorities. The Act also codifies into law certain data collection requirements integral to HMIS. With enactment of the HEARTH Act, HMIS participation became a statutory requirement for recipients and subrecipients of CoC Program and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds.
With the flexibility in the HUD requirement, each county/geographical area can chose how they implement the intent of the law. Most metropolitan areas are implementing a computer-based system for collecting information from program participants.
Seattle/King County is using a system called Safe Harbors. Additional information about the system is available at http://www.safeharbors.org/default.htm.
In Snohomish County, they use a system called Client Track. http://clienttrack.com/
Examples of the types of reports that are produced are found at http://snohomishcountywa.gov/856/HMIS-Reports
Dispelling the Myths about HMIS
Myth #1 Everyone who receives benefits has to answer the HMIS survey questions
Participation in the data collection process is voluntary. People cannot be refused service at service providers because they refuse to participate in the data collection.
Myth #2 Your right to privacy is being violated
The data is protected by the same privacy laws as information you give your doctor or on an application social security disability or the Affordable Care Act. Data is not tracked to the individual; it is summarized at an aggregate level.