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Talking about By-name data

October 11, 2022

What is by-name data?

By-name data is a comprehensive database of every person in a community experiencing homelessness, updated in real time. Using information collected and shared with their consent, each person on the list has a file that includes their name, homeless history, health, and housing needs. This data is updated monthly, at minimum.

Quality by-name data enables teams to account for every person experiencing homelessness in real time. Achieving it is a necessary and catalytic step toward solving homelessness.

Note: A Built for Zero community only achieves the milestone of reaching quality by-name data when the Built for Zero Data Team validates that the community has officially reached this data standard. Please reach out to your coach or email if you have more questions about this process.

Why is by-name data critical for ending homelessness?

  • By-name data helps improve outcomes for individuals. By maintaining a by-name list, communities have current and detailed information on every unhoused person in a population. With this detailed information, they are able to better match housing solutions with the needs of the individuals. By-name lists often form the basis for case conferencing meetings, where all the providers within a community meet to coordinate and drive forward with housing solutions for people.

  • By-name data enables communities to understand if they are reducing overall homelessness and target systems changes to make progress. Communities are able to track the changing size, composition, and dynamics of their homeless population. This information enables them to prioritize resources, test changes to their system, and understand whether their efforts are helping to drive those numbers down toward zero.
  • Equipped with this data, communities can understand where to direct their attention and implement strategies that are as dynamic as the problem. By-name, real-time data is modeled off approaches to other public health challenges, like COVID-19. An annual snapshot of cases doesn’t equip public health officials with the information they need to know if they are making progress on ending the pandemic. They have real-time data to know the scale and scope of the problem, if their strategies are driving numbers down, and if not, whether they need to pivot. Without this information, communities can get stuck in a cycle of solving yesterday’s problem, without knowing if they are moving any closer to zero homelessness.

What six data points can communities track through their by-name data?

Inflow. When a person loses housing and enters into homelessness, they’re part of what we call inflow. Inflow data captures people who are:

  • Newly identified, or new to homelessness. 
  • Returned from housing, or people who experienced homelessness before, got connected with housing, and now are homeless again
  • Returned from Inactive, or people who experienced homelessness before and exited to unknown destinations (left town, were institutionalized for 90+ days etc), and now are homeless again

Actively homeless. People who are currently experiencing homelessness are categorized as being actively homeless.

Outflow. Outflow refers to people who have exited homelessness. This typically includes two groups:

  • Housing placements, or people who have been connected to permanent housing
  • Moved to inactive, or people who exit homelessness without support from the homeless response system, such as finding their own housing, moving out of the community, or entering a long-term stay in an institution


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