Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Nancy Shank and the Cloudburst Group. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs in the Office of Community Planning and Development, October 2009, 408 p.


U.S. government publication.


In communities across the United States, social service clients face uncoordinated systems of care and delays in services when their information cannot easily be shared among providers. Social service agencies face challenges in sharing information on clients and services between disparate information systems and inefficiencies when multiple, stand-alone systems are used to satisfy operational, funding, or reporting requirements.

This cataloging project arose from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) interest to document standards that may be of relevance to its community partners, particularly those partners working to support local homeless, housing, and community development activities and build bridges between and among disparate information systems. It is hoped that this catalog will assist HUD policymakers and their community partners to identify data sharing opportunities. This document may also be of interest to other community organizations (beyond homeless organizations) attempting to build communitywide information systems and to other federal agencies and standards organizations across the United States. Documentation may assist policymakers in identifying alliances and collaborations. Successful data sharing may facilitate the evaluation of worthwhile social policy research. The information in this catalog is intended to be accessible to a nontechnical audience. When available, links to technical data specifications are provided.

This catalog represents an effort to provide accurate and comprehensive information about relevant data standards and initiatives. However, the status of these standards and initiatives is rapidly changing. Therefore, it is hoped that the catalog might be periodically updated to reflect new information or developments.

HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPs) defines how grantees funded under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act collect data about the persons they serve. HUD requires these grantees to collect certain core data elements and has also created technical data interoperability standards to facilitate information sharing between local community organizations serving the homeless. The data requirements and standards, labeled Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) Data and Technical Standards, set a foundation to capture uniform and consistent data on homelessness throughout the country. Beyond the homeless services community, other sectors similarly have established reporting and technical standards. Documentation of major data requirements and standards begins to define the many ways community agencies may be collecting and reporting information about clients. When standards are reconciled, the solution may then be used by communities across the United States to streamline access to services for clients.

This report focuses on national client-level health and human service data requirements and standards, many of which are endorsed or sponsored by federal agencies. The term standard is used somewhat loosely throughout this report. Standard is not limited to technical standards. Rather, standard is used to refer to any initiative or program that defines how data are collected or maintained in communities for the provision of health and human services.

The bulk of this report is a catalog of major health and human service standards. Content for each catalog entry was gleaned from documents and Web sites. Whenever possible, the summaries were reviewed by representatives of sponsoring organizations.

In total, 64 standards were included in the standards catalog. Standards were identified for 13 sectors:


Behavioral Health

Child and Family Services

Community Resources


Criminal Justice/Courts


Employment/Workforce Training

Food and Nutrition

Health Care


Income Support

Public Health

The narrative portion of this report describes the cataloging effort and results and concludes with six recommendations for next steps. The recommendations focus on efforts that may forge data sharing relationships between HUD and its community partners and other federal and local agencies. The recommendations include:

1. Prioritize standards of most relevance and interest to HUD and its grantees.

2. Compare priority standards to the HUD HMIS standards and develop strategies for how standards may interact.

3. Document best practices in community data sharing efforts that include data on homeless men, women, and children.

4. Participate in, and develop, data sharing dialogues with other health and human services standards efforts.

5. Document challenges and solutions to community information sharing.

6. Identify additional data resources that may help communities and HUD document homelessness in the United States.

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