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Quality By-Name List (BNL)
This section of the change package is most appropriate for communities focused on building a quality By-Name List (BNL) for specific subpopulations (e.g. veteran and chronic) or for all single adults.
A by-name list allows you to know everyone in your community experiencing homelessness in real time. Without this information, you cannot:
- Understand the scope of homelessness in your community
- Understand how people move in and out of your system on an ongoing basis
- Have accurate information to set goals to reduce homelessness
- Have accurate information to understand if you are making progress in ending homelessness
The key components of a quality By-Name List include ensuring that your system is touching everyone who is experiencing homelessness in your community; that you can accurately assess who is entering your homeless system on an ongoing basis; and that you can accurately track their progress through the system, including how successful you are in implementing prioritization and providing permanent housing to those who need it.
Start by taking the By-Name List Scorecard!
Areas for improvement
Use the places where you answered ‘no’ on the scorecard to identify which areas of your system you need to improve and make changes. Below are some areas you can begin making improvements with your team:
Build the will to achieve a quality BNL
Establish an accountable multi-agency improvement team
- Start with your early adopters, and use them as a testing group to work out the kinks in your by-name list policies and protocols. Use your learning from this test group to bring un-engaged providers onboard.
- Bright Spot: Fayetteville, AR
Local team has a formal structure in place to coordinate regularly across entire system
- Develop a release of information form and data-sharing agreements in order to share identifying information between projects and during case conferencing meetings.
- Even when a provider is reluctant to come to the table, find workarounds and make accommodations for the reluctant provider as you continue to build trust with them.
- Bright Spot: Roanoke, VA
Create a shared aim and target date to achieve a Quality BNL
- Use multimedia resources to help the improvement team align around the process and the goal.
Achieve and sustain sufficient participation and outreach coverage
Outreach is coordinated, sufficient, and documented
- Document outreach practices in your CoC’s Coordinated Entry System policies and procedures or in your organization’s policies and procedures.
- Partner with local SAMHSA-funded PATH teams to coordinate additional outreach and support for individuals with mental health or substance-use issues.
- In rural communities, secure agreement for non-homelessness-specific partners to make referrals to dedicated outreach staff or access points; make sure to maintain face-to-face contact for the client throughout the process.
- Bright Spot: West Virginia Balance of State Continuum of Care
- Map outreach efforts in your CoC geography by facilitating a meeting with all organizations doing outreach, including PATH providers and mental health teams; note gaps and where duplication may occur.
- Bright Spot: Washington, D.C.
- Define the role for outreach teams and train them to serve as an access point; duties may include administering assessments, adding individuals to the by-name list, and linking to services or interventions.
- Partner with non-traditional or non-housing partners (e.g. food pantries, law enforcement, faith-based organizations) to engage clients in conversation about housing and connect them to the coordinated entry system
- Bright Spot: Rockford, IL | Strengthening Partnerships Between Law Enforcement and Homelessness Services Systems from USICH
- Identify agencies that provide services after normal business hours, such as shelter, outreach and crisis intervention, and assess their willingness to serve as access points.
- Use 2-1-1 as a 24-hour central hotline to connect individuals to coordinated entry access points after normal business hours.
Providers use a common assessment tool and report data to BNL
- Train every person that administers the VI-SPDAT to use the same introductory script. This helps to protect against variation and promotes reliability of the tool.
- Schedule a meeting with executive directors of community-based organizations and VA programs, review the benefits of a common assessment tool, and ask for their commitment to implement it with their staff
Collect data on all types of homelessness
- Ensure that the CES process addresses the physical and emotional safety, as well as privacy and confidentiality needs, of participants by developing strong relationships between the CoC, local victim service providers, and state domestic and sexual violence coalitions.
Document Coverage in policies and procedures
- Create a policy that documents your community’s outreach practices and protocols. Make sure to revisit this policy regularly to ensure that it continues to be sufficient as your community changes.
- Community Sample Policies: Tucson, AZ and Rockford, IL
Implement BNL policies and procedures
Implement an inactivity policy
- Determine the length of inactivity threshold that makes sense for your community, engaging the appropriate governing body, and publish it in your inactivity policy.
- Community Sample: Northeast Florida Inactivity Policy
Develop a policy to track Individuals without a full assessment
- Document encounters with individuals unwilling or unable to complete a full assessment, and include them on your by-name list; be sure to protect the way information is stored and shared, and note you must have consent from these individuals to include them on the BNL.
- Bright Spot: Winston-Salem, NC
- Work with your HMIS Admin or vendor to establish a workflow within HMIS that allows staff to record client details without using identifying information that can be tracked separately, thereby maintaining confidentiality but allows records to be included in your overall count of actively homeless individuals.
Update data in a timely and accurate way
- For large cities, create a tiered management structure for ensuring data quality and reliability form the provider level to the HMIS level.
- Bright Spot: Chicago, IL and Phoenix, AZ
- Monitor timeliness of agencies’ updates and review it at in-person meetings to encourage consistency; if using HMIS as your platform, create a plan to monitor timeliness and accuracy, and support agencies to help them improve.
Implement and sustain person-specific data infrastructure
Track homeless status and date of status change
- In advance of case conferencing meeting, collect updates to individuals’ homeless status in order to use case conferencing to discuss client progress towards housing.
- Designate by-name list fields for status of homeless individual (i.e. unsheltered, sheltered, housed, inactive) and date of most recent status change.
Assign a unique identifier to each individual
- If your by-name list is hosted separately from HMIS, develop a protocol for assigning a unique identifier to each individual for the purpose of cross-referencing HMIS with the BNL, de-duplication, and maintaining anonymity (reminder: a unique identifier should not be a social security number or birth date)
Track newly identified individuals
- Designate field in by-name list to track when a newly identified individual is added (i.e. date of assessment).
- Bright Spot: Bakersfield/Kern County CoC
- Sort or filter list by date of assessment to generate report of individuals who entered the system in a given month; you will need to aggregate this data monthly and should plot on a trend line to understand changes in inflow over time.
- If there is a substantial lag time between identification and adding an individual to the BNL, consider technology solutions.
- Bright Spot: Jacksonville, FL
Track individuals returning to the BNL
- Create a project or report in HMIS that allows you to cross-reference new intakes with inactive individuals so that you can move them back to active status as they reengage the system.
Track all outflow
- For smaller communities, a manual process, moving records between different tabs on a spreadsheet may be sufficient.
- Community Sample: Middlesex County’s By-Name List Excel Spread Sheet
Track all population-based statuses
- Streamline processes for verifying and indicating veteran status in your by-name list database through dedicated coordination between the coordinated entry and VAMC staff.
- Bright Spot: Honolulu, HI
- Create check-in process for case managers to update chronic status over time; chronic status can also be updated as individuals are enrolled into additional housing and support services.
- Do not wait for disability paperwork to add individuals to the chronic by-name list; disability should be assumed based on self-report, and navigators can collect documentation in parallel to housing process.
Ensure quality system-wide data
All providers are represented in BNL data
- Keep a list of agencies contributing data to HMIS and your BNL, plus another list of non-contributing agencies, so that you can continually encourage them to begin participating.
- Community Sample: Provider Data Contribution Tracker, Detriot, MI.
- Community Sample: Provider Data Contribution Tracker, Detriot, MI.
- Train staff to input GPD program data in HMIS and the BNL; if HMIS does not host your by-name list, ask the list manager to create a mechanism to regularly report and capture GPD data.
- Bright Spot: Ann Arbor, MI
- Bright Spot: Ann Arbor, MI
- Groups interested in launching collaborative interventions that span different service sectors need to find ways to build trust and share data and insights. Gathering and analyzing administrative data across agencies and programs can be enormously powerful.
Data is reliable and accurate
- Avoid duplicate records by creating a protocol to cross-reference the inactive list when assessors are entering client data; you may ask assessors to check if the individual already has a unique identifier or has been on the BNL.