New Analysis of Integrated Data Provides a Clearer Representation of People Experiencing Homelessness 

DCHS Data Insights Series
King County’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) is committed to leveraging data to inform program and investment decisions that meet our mission of providing equitable opportunities for King County’s residents to be happy, healthy, and connected to community. Over the past five years, DCHS, in collaboration with other King County agency partners, has made significant investments in modernizing our data systems, collecting more robust client-level outcome data, and building a secure data infrastructure to support workflows that combine data across historically siloed service systems. These efforts are beginning to yield positive results by increasing the ability to make data accessible to the public and decision makers, as well as create more meaningful cross-system analytics.  

DCHS is excited to launch a new series, titled “DCHS Data Insights” that will highlight how DCHS data is directly impacting programs, client outcomes, and the core issues of   some of our region’s most pressing issues. We plan to release a new brief at least quarterly on a variety of issue areas. We welcome questions and comments at DCHSData@KingCounty.gov.  


In 2018, DCHS and Seattle-King County Public Health began the process to develop a secure data infrastructure to connect information from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), Health Care for the Homeless Network (HCHN), and King County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Division (BHRD), among other data sources. This new data resource became available as the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 and has already helped the department better prioritize scarce resources and plan for pandemic response.   

A recent DCHS analysis, led by Carolina Johnson, Ph.D., using this cross-system data hub estimates that nearly 7,300 people served by HCHN or BHRD programs experienced homelessness in 2020, but did not receive services from HMIS programs. This analysis confirms known limitations of using HMIS data and the annual Point-In-Time counts alone to estimate the scale of the homelessness crisis. The number of people who are identified in HCHN or BHRD system data, but not in HMIS, comprise more than half of the annual Point-in-Time Count, and we know that many more households interact with HMIS at any point during a year than are counted in a single night. 

This analysis and the resulting improvements in measuring our community’s homelessness crisis are one example of how building integrated data capacity allows King County to better identify gaps between systems serving our most vulnerable neighbors. In turn, this will better equip policy makers and practitioners to develop more effective responses and improve service delivery.  

In coordination with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and HCHN, DCHS will build upon this work to determine what drives these findings, identify ways to better align services across systems, and continue to improve our understanding of and responses to homelessness. For more detailed information on the methodology and results of this analysis, please see the full report here.