The Region of Waterloo is doing great work in customizing HIFIS 4 to support system wide, client-focused service planning. One of the tools that we helped them to implement is the Housing Plan. This blog post covers an overview of this tool.
This project began with a question: how can we ensure that staff are consistently having housing-focused conversations with clients in shelters, and also remaining up-to-date on the conversations clients have already had with other staff? In other words, we need a consistent framework or a step-by-step guide for staff to follow. Then, we need a centralized place that any staff can access up-to-date notes about a given client’s progress towards housing.
The Region of Waterloo had developed a document they called My Housing Plan long before ACRE Consulting became involved. The challenge for us was: how to translate this into HIFIS 4?
At first, it seemed like a good fit was the Case Management module. Each client could have an open case file with the Goal of Obtaining Housing, and sessions could be recorded to indicate what progress was occurring with that client. But there were a few challenges with this approach.
The first challenge was that staff needed to know not only what had been already done with the client, but what was supposed to be happening next. A staff could tell that a client had recently begun to receive social assistance (that’s the last Session recorded), but what was that client specifically supposed to be doing next? The next step should be to ensure that the client has ID. But there’s no clear way to express that the next thing the client needed to do was fill out a particular form, versus the form had been filled out and what the client needed to do was wait for it to come in the mail, versus the client already had their identification and they could skip this step and move on to the next one.
We considered an alternate approach: create several different Goals, each corresponding with the next step in the Housing Plan: like Obtain ID and Secure Income. That way, a staff could easily see what step(s) the client is currently working on. But there was still a challenge when it came to using the Case Management module: the information couldn’t be easily shared with staff at other shelters, and in the Region of Waterloo, there are several large shelters that share clients. We could simply create a custom report that would output a client’s Housing Plan (essentially granting all staff read-only access to each other’s Housing Plan case files) but then they wouldn’t be able to update the Housing Plans as necessary. We could grant each user rights to access the Case Management modules for each of the different shelters, but with dozens if not hundreds of shelter workers, that’s a lot of configuration and might cause future difficulties.
Having no luck with the Case Management module, we turned our attention to Custom Tables. A Custom Table in HIFIS 4 can be attached to various other modules and to an extent it inherits the behaviour of the module it’s attached to. For instance, we could create a Housing Plan that’s attached to a Case File, but then – like Case Files normally – it wouldn’t be shareable.
Instead, we decided that the best place to locate a Custom Table, for maximum accessibility and to support the desired amount of data sharing, would be on the Client – Vitals screen.
The Housing Plan would be shared between staff at all shelters, and with the Housing First team (in Waterloo, this is called the PATHS team). All of them would be able to edit the Housing Plan. It would be the home of a living document that shows up-to-date progress on a client’s housing search, whether they are receiving intensive or light touch housing assistance.
Housing Plan Output
Waterloo already had a My Housing Plan Worksheet that staff were familiar with. The final challenge was to convert the data in HIFIS to a usable output.
The goal was to create a report that would generate an output that looked much like the original My Housing Plan Worksheet, but automatically filled some parts of it with information from HIFIS. For example, step 1 of the Housing Plan is to get income, but HIFIS already has a Financial Profile section for each client. The report was designed to pull data from relevant HIFIS modules and combine it into an easy-to-read snapshot for the client and their caseworkers.
Get My Housing Plan Now!
If this sounds cool to you (we think it’s pretty awesome, but we might be biased), you can download the bundle for yourself. The link to the download below includes the original My Housing Plan Worksheet, custom table configuration instructions, a Crystal Reports template, and a sample output.