Making the most of Transitional housing status

As of HIFIS version 4.0.59, there's a new feature that identifies the client's Housing Status.

The Housing Status is derived from a combination of both the client's Housing History and their Admissions, and can be one of 5 statuses:

  1. Housed
  2. Homeless
  3. Chronically Homeless
  4. Unknown
  5. Transitional

You can look up the Housing Types that belong to the Housed, Homeless, and Transitional categories in Administration > Housing Continuum by looking up the Reaching Home Continuum. A client is Chronically Homeless if they've had enough days with the Homeless status to meet the federal definition of Chronic Homelessness. A client is Unknown when there's no current data in their file, so HIFIS doesn't know what their status should be.

The Transitional Status

Okay, enough background. The purpose is this blog post is to look at that pesky Transitional status.

Why is it pesky? Well, generally speaking, there isn't a lot of consensus about how transitional housing is defined, to start with. Furthermore, in the Reaching Home continuum - in HIFIS - there's a lot of things lumped together that count as Transitional that maybe should be treated differently. And a community's options to configure it are limited.

Reaching Home Continuum

We have things like correctional facilities, hospitals, detox, and treatment facilities all part of the Transitional category. But we also have things like Transitional Housing in the same category, and it's probably safe to assume that you would want to treat them slightly differently.

Now the only option that communities have is to choose whether Transitional "counts as" Homeless or Housed. The main purpose of this "counts as" is for the Coordinated Access module. If you say that Transitional "counts as" housed, then clients with Transitional status will not appear on your Coordinated Access - Unique Identifier List. However, regardless of which option you choose, time with the Transitional status does not accumulate time towards becoming Chronically Homeless.

So, what's a community to do? Sometimes there's transitional housing within a community that's so short-term that clients living in them should be still actively being considered for permanent housing resources. But sometimes there's also housing in the same community that describes itself as transitional but clients can live there for as long as they want to, and clients living there are basically permanently housed, for all intents and purposes. But using the capabilities within HIFIS, they're all treated the same. One option (counting Transitional as homeless) clutters up your BNL with clients you don't need to worry about, while the other option (counting Transitional as housed) excludes some people from consideration who are not permanently housed.

Roll-Ups to the Rescue!

But wait, all hope is not lost for our valiant heroes. In a previous blog post, we talked about roll-up values. In short, when you're adding custom options in a drop-down menu, you can specify the roll-up value for that custom option. Basically, a roll-up value tells the software to treat this custom value as equivalent to some built-in default value.

So if you had a housing resource called "Wonderland Transitional Housing" you could add a custom option to the Housing Types look-up table called "Wonderland Transitional Housing." Normally, you'd select the roll-up value to be "Transitional Housing" since that's the closest available option. But what you could do, instead, is say that "Wonderland Transitional Housing" is instead closer to "Supportive Housing," which is a default value that's part of the Housed category on the Reaching Home Housing Continuum. Then you could say that the Transitional category "counts as" Homeless. If you did all of that, then everyone with a Transitional status would still be included in your BNL, except for those currently living at "Wonderland Transitional Housing" since that all counts as Supportive Housing, not Transitional Housing. (For the purposes of HIFIS, anyway.)

Where I live, in Kingston, there's a lot of student housing that's available for subletting during the summer. But these are short-term rentals with no option for renewal or permanency, so potentially, our community might consider these clients to be still on the BNL and not housed - even though they are in housing. Normally, what you would do if a client had a rental like this is add a Housing History with the Housing Type of "Rental at Market Price" which would give the client the status of Housed, definitively removing them from the BNL no matter what you did. But instead, you could create a custom Housing Type called "Short Term Rental" or "Summer Sublet" and have it roll up to "Transitional Housing" to give these clients a Housing Status of Transitional instead of Housed. Then you could either include them (Transitional = Homeless) or exclude them (Transitional = Housed) from the BNL, as per your needs. In either of these cases, the time spent in the summer sublet would not result in time accumulating towards chronic homelessness. Or, you could even have this custom value have a roll-up value of "Hotel / Motel" or something similar, which would make them explicitly count as homeless AND accumulate time towards chronicity.

Our Official Suggestion

If you subscribe to the ACRE Consulting school of HIFIS use (which you probably do, since you're reading this), here's how you can customize your Housing Types drop-down menu to leverage all of this to your advantage:

  • Homeless: Housing types that count as homeless AND count towards chronicity
  • Transitional: Set Transitional = Homeless, then include here housing types that count as homeless but DON'T count towards chronicity
  • Housed: Housing types that would remove someone from the BNL

So, you would add any number of new custom Housing Types to roll up to the appropriate category, and you would disable any existing Housing Types that might lead to confusion or end up with the wrong result.

What about jails and hospitals, you might ask? Well, the easiest thing to do would be to leave them as Transitional. That's the least amount of work, anyway, since you don't need to go adding more custom values (although if you're in Ontario, you might need to anyways). You could add custom values and then have those roll up to Housed if you really want them off the list, but your various inflow/outflow reports might capture them as moves to housing, which you don't want. To be honest, we probably do want a new category here for institutional stays, but given that we currently only have three categories, we're doing the best we can with what we've got.

Takeaways from #CAEH22
What's the difference between the Unique Identifier List and the Coordinated Access module?


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