Agencies collect demographic information on youth during initial intake sessions and subsequent meetings or conversations with youth. Staff conducting intake sessions for shelter or housing services use forms to gather such information as a youth’s name, age, birth date, race and ethnicity, disability and marital status, and last permanent address. These forms can be completed by staff through interviews with youth or completed by youth themselves. Staff members reported that they also gather information on youths’ backgrounds during case management meetings and informal conversations that occur after intake, once youth and staff have had an opportunity to build rapport.
As would be expected, services that involve extended contact between staff and youth allow for collection of more comprehensive demographic data than services featuring briefer and less consistent interactions. Information is regularly gathered from youth accessing emergency shelter or transitional housing, which tend to require formal enrollment procedures and regular case management meetings. For street outreach or drop-in center services, staff complete logs to document contacts with youth and attempt to record basic information, such as name, age, physical characteristics, and living situation. Because these service contacts tend to be brief, however, opportunities for additional data collection may be limited.
To record and manage client data, three study agencies use an HMIS and one maintains paper records. All the agencies use RHYMIS to report client and service data for programs receiving federal RHY grants, but RHYMIS is not used as a tool for ongoing case management. At agencies using an HMIS, staff reported that they duplicated entry of information into RHYMIS to meet reporting requirements.