Enhancing Homeless Services Data: Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s HMIS Transition to Clarity Human Services: Bitfocus


Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County
Community Support Services

Mary Ann

Senior Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County
Community Support Services


Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County
Community Support Services


Senior Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County
Community Support Services

On July 10, 2023, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care implemented a new Homeless Management Information System (HMIS): Clarity Human Services: Bitfocus. The system launch is the culmination of a yearlong system improvement effort to strengthen and enhance the local homeless services data system.

This blog provides an overview of HMIS, the vendor selection process, the anticipated impact, and what to expect in the coming months.


The Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is a database and information management system used to collect, store, and analyze data on homelessness and the utilization of homeless services. It is typically used by local and regional homeless service providers, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to track and manage information about individuals and families experiencing homelessness and those at-risk of homelessness. Organizations receiving funding through certain federal, state, and local homeless assistance programs are required to enter data into the HMIS system. In addition there are a significant number of community partners who do not receive these funding sources who utilize the HMIS system to capture data on households they are serving through their programs.

Each Continuum of Care (CoC) is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to designate a HMIS Lead Agency that is responsible for establishing and operating the CoC’s HMIS. In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg CoC, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services serves as the local HMIS Lead Agency. The HMIS Lead Agency is responsible for ensuring that all projects entering data in the system align with national data quality standards, that the CoC has appropriate plans for data privacy, security, and data quality within the HMIS framework, and that the HMIS operations comply with the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The primary goal of HMIS is to improve the coordination and delivery of homeless services, enhance data quality, and provide a comprehensive understanding of the homeless population and their needs. Locally, HMIS facilitates the coordination of housing and services for homeless individuals, families, and those at risk of homelessness and supports the efforts of over 300 staff and volunteers representing approximately 40 service providers working to end homelessness throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg. It helps the CoC, local organizations, and policymakers allocate resources, identify trends and patterns, and measure the effectiveness of programs and interventions aimed at supporting people and reducing homelessness.

HMIS Key Features And Functions

Client Data Collection: HMIS securely collects and maintains information such socio-demographic information, housing and homelessness history, reason for homelessness, and program enrollment about individuals and families who seek assistance from homeless service providers.

Service Utilization: Organizations track the types and frequency of services by households, such as emergency shelter stays, transitional housing utilization, and other supportive services.

Coordinated Entry: In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, HMIS supports the coordinated entry system, which helps prioritize and match households experiencing homelessness and housing instability to the most appropriate housing and services based on their needs and vulnerabilities.

Reporting and Analysis: The HMIS system is used to generate reports and facilitate data analytics that help the CoC, organizations, and stakeholders understand the homeless population, trends, and service gaps. This information supports data-driven decision making and policy planning.

Overall, HMIS plays a crucial role in addressing homelessness by providing a comprehensive view of the issue and assisting organizations in delivering more effective and targeted services to those in need. It also enables data sharing and collaboration among various stakeholders working towards the common goal of ending homelessness in their community.


 Switching from one HMIS system to another is a huge undertaking but community and end user feedback received via the 2021 HMIS Visioning Survey suggested that our legacy HMIS system was not meeting the needs of the community or HMIS participating organizations. Data entry workflows were unnecessarily complicated, there were challenges with data visibility that impacted the ability to coordinate care, and organizations were not able to extract custom data they were collecting without incurring a cost. In addition, after assessing long-term community goals in relation to data and reporting, it was determined the legacy HMIS system was not and could not meet the evolving needs of the community.


In September 2022, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg CoC released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an HMIS software solution. The RFP and RFP scorecard were developed collaboratively with the Mecklenburg County Procurement Division, Mecklenburg County CoC and HMIS staff, and the Data Advisory Committee HMIS Sub-committee. Six bids were received and five vendors moved to Phase 2 of the selection process. One vendor was excluded because the solution was not feasible due to cost.  The remaining five vendors were invited to demonstrate their respective HMIS solutions. All demos were widely publicized and open to the community. Following a competitive evaluation process led by the community, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care selected the Clarity Human Services Application: Bitfocus as its new HMIS system.

Once the contract was finalized, the transition work began immediately. Transition work has included setting up the system to receive data from our legacy system; ensuring privacy settings align with current community privacy standards; building out projects and assessments; providing in-person and online training to the systems’ 300+ end users and assigning end user HMIS licenses. In addition with the support of technical assistance (TA) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HMIS Lead staff are working collaboratively with the HMIS Transition Workgroup to develop a governance model and structure for local HMIS administration, a revised and more client-centered release of information, and local HMIS policies and procedures. The HMIS Transition Workgroup consists of representatives from all interested HMIS contributing homeless organizations, HMIS and CoC staff, and HUD TA providers.


Migrating HMIS data is a two-part process. First federal funder data (CoC, VA, RHY, PATH, ESG) is migrated to the new system. Then once those data are fully imported, the custom data (data from data fields that the local system or local organizations have created) are imported. Both include significant testing and data review prior to the final migration of the data type. Once testing is complete, data becomes available in the new system. The federal funder data was migrated and available at system launch on July 10th. The HMIS Team is in the process of working with Bitfocus staff to prepare for the custom data migration. The custom data migration is expected to be completed in four to six weeks.

It is not possible to migrate custom reports to the new system via the HMIS migration. What this means is that any reports that are not required by federal funders have to be created in the new system. All custom reports including the reports we use for reporting our monthly One Number metrics are in the process of being rebuilt in the new system. The One Number reports, in particular, require the use of extremely complex logic and will require extensive testing as we work to replicate these reports in the Bitfocus platform. Community Solutions, Built for Zero, is providing support to rebuild these reports in the new system but the reports are not expected to be completed for a few months. This means that One Number metric data updates on the dashboard will be delayed as we work to develop the needed reports to provide these metrics to the community.

Finally, there were aspects of our legacy system, including but not limited to how data were entered in HMIS prior to Charlotte-Mecklenburg becoming a limited open system in 2018, that impacted the data quality for specific data elements. These data quality issues have been addressed through data transformations as part of the data import which means we will see differences in reporting. In addition, we now have new auto-exit functionality which will ensure people are exited from the system when they are exited from any project to a permanent destination or if they do not have any system activity in 30 days. Ultimately this will ensure we have a more accurate estimate of the number of people actively experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. However, we do expect to see a decrease in our overall counts when we are able to resume reporting of our One Number metrics.


Robust data system are necessary to end homelessness.

The implementation of Clarity Human Services: Bitfocus HMIS strengthens our local homeless data system by providing an intuitive user interface, streamlined data entry that will enhance data quality, improved reporting capabilities and capacity, and the ability to seamlessly import data into the HMIS system to facilitate cross systems data integration. These system improvements will better facilitate our collective mission to achieve efficient, effective, and data-driven homelessness services, improve the lives of the people that we serve, and ensure that homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.