Hub Resource Quality Data Toolkit |

Tracking Inactivity

May 21, 2024

How many people in your community are experiencing literal homelessness each month?  Answering this question relies on understanding  the concepts  of determining who is “active” and “inactive.”  The resources on this page will dig deeper into how a community can understand and track whether a person experiencing literal homelessness is no longer active—which is referred to as “inactive.”  The scorecard questions listed below focus on tracking inactivity (4a-c). They ask communities to ensure that inactive policies, processes, and procedures are consistently defined and can reliably track when someone is considered “inactive” within their homeless response system. 


Generally speaking, someone would be defined as “inactive” in a given community if they no longer meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Development’s definition of literal homelessness in the community’s geographical area. This includes:

  • When the homeless response system cannot confirm a person’s housing status (after being initially identified as literally homeless) because they were unable to contact that person after a specified number of contact attempts within a defined time frame. Timeframe and contact attempts are defined by each community.
  • When an individual who was initially identified as literally homeless moves into a housing situation that does not meet HUD’s literally homeless definition. For example, couch surfing or doubling up,
  • When an individual, regardless of housing status,  moves out of the community’s defined geographical area (the area is defined by the community team, but often aligns with the Continuum of Care boundaries),
  • When an individual, who was initially identified as literally homeless, moves into an institutional setting for more than 90 days. 
  • The unfortunate scenario when someone on the active list passes away

What are some examples of an institutional setting (examples based on HMIS data standards)? Foster care, foster care group home, hospital, residential non-psychiatric medical facility, long-term care facility or nursing home, psychiatric hospital or other psychiatric facility, jail, prison, juvenile detention facility, substance abuse treatment facility or detox center. 


Connecting folks who are unhoused to housing quickly

Tracking inactivity can help communities efficiently match individuals on the active list to housing opportunities and help service providers coordinate care. Having a reliable and updated list of everyone experiencing homelessness allows a community to quickly connect individuals to eligible housing opportunities and resources. Another benefit of continuously updating someone’s active status is that it requires the system to be accountable for maintaining contact with everyone who is identified as unhoused. This can decrease the likelihood of someone not receiving services or housing opportunities solely because they have lost contact with a specific person or provider. 

Improving Systems

Tracking each month how many people exit the homeless response system because they moved to inactive provides important information about a system’s performance and capacity. By tracking inactivity, communities can start to identify areas for improvement. For example, how many people are inactive each month because they lost contact with the system versus entering an institution? How many people are returning to homelessness who last exited the system to inactivity? Knowing why empowers communities to improve their system and better advocate for the resources needed to end homelessness. 


Scorecard Assessment

A note about thresholds.

What’s the difference between the initial quality data threshold and the sustaining quality data threshold? The initial quality data threshold is the minimum threshold required for BFZ’s all singles quality data confirmation. This threshold signifies that a community has built the foundations for a robust data system and can accurately track outcomes. The sustaining quality data threshold is required for confirming functional zero for a given population or subpopulation. This threshold signifies that a community has built robust data systems that can ensure data integrity, and reliably track outcomes about all individuals experiencing homelessness over time. For more information, please refer to the All Singles Quality Data Scorecard Rubric.

Sometimes, even given the best efforts of providers, staff, and the system as a whole, the Homeless Response System may lose contact with people identified as experiencing homelessness. This scorecard question ensures that the community has defined policies and procedures that outline what steps need to take place to confirm someone is no longer active because of a lack of contact within an established time frame (i.e., the inactive threshold). Establishing these policies and procedures helps keep systems accountable. It sets up shared expectations of what contact attempts need to be made so the community can do their due diligence in engaging with folks before they are moved to the inactive status.

Scorecard Question: Has your community established a written policy that specifies the number of days of inactivity (i.e. the person cannot be located) after which a person’s status will be changed to “inactive,” and which includes protocols to attempt to locate an individual before they are moved to inactive status?

Initial Quality Data Threshold

The community has a written policy in place that specifies the number of days needed to reach the

inactive threshold; indicates the provider responsible and the number, method and frequency for attempting to contact, locate and update the status of an individual; and applies to any single adult individual identified as literally homeless.

Sustaining Quality Data Threshold

There are community-wide documented policies and procedures in place for specifying inactivity duration and processes for attempting to contact inactive individuals that are applied to all individuals in the population of focus regardless of program enrollment.

This scorecard question ensures that the community has defined policies and procedures that outline cases when someone can be moved to inactive status without needing to do additional outreach, as outlined in question 4a.  For example, someone could move to another community or state; they could move into a housing situation that means they are no longer experiencing literal homelessness, or unfortunately, someone could have passed away. Having scenarios in which individuals would be moved to inactive, written down, and agreed upon in a community can help keep the active list reflective of who is eligible for resources and housing opportunities. 

Scorecard Question: Does that written policy account for changing an individual’s status to ‘inactive’ based on a client’s verified absence from the community before the specified number of days has elapsed? (e.g. reunited with family in a different community, death, etc.)

Initial Quality Data Threshold

The written policy includes protocols that allow for changing an individual’s status to inactive prior to reaching the number of days in the inactive threshold if there is evidence that the individual is no longer considered actively homeless in the community (e.g. moved out of the area, reunited with family in a different community, etc), or the individual is deceased.

Sustaining Quality Data Threshold

There are community-wide documented policies and procedures in place that describe the process for moving an individual to inactive prior to reaching the number of days in the inactive threshold and can demonstrate the accuracy of their inactive data.

In alignment with HUD’s definition of literal homelessness, this question helps a community understand who is no longer active because they moved into an institutional setting for more than 90-days.  Tracking this information allows a community to maintain an accurate active list. It can also be used to understand when individuals move in and out of homelessness to related systems like healthcare and criminal justice. This information is important for understanding overall trends and identifying how to improve systems. 

Scorecard Question:  Does that written policy account for individuals on your list who are entering an institution (e.g. jail or hospital)where they are expected to remain for 90 days or fewer?

Initial Quality Data Threshold

The community’s written policy includes protocols to ensure that an individual that enters an institution from active homelessness remains active if they are expected to remain in the institution for fewer than 90 days (i.e. an individual remains active if stay is shorter than 90 days, and moves to inactive if stay is 90 or more days).

Sustaining Quality Data Threshold

There are community-wide documented policies and procedures in place that state how communities track people who enter an institution (e.g. jail, hospital, recovery center etc).


SEE ALSO: POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

Hub Resource

Data Quality

Question 6

Hub Resource

Tracking unassessed

Question 5

Hub Resource

Tracking Inactivity

Questions 4A, 4B, 4C

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