Articles and Events

FEMA Non-Congregate Shelter (NCS) Program Setup


FEMA Non-Congregate Shelter (NCS) Program Overview

Under President Trump’s March 13, 2020 national emergency declaration for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, FEMA’s Regional Administrators have been delegated authority to approve requests for non-congregate sheltering for the duration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration of a Public Health Emergency for COVID-19. 

FEMA the State of California for statewide non-congregate sheltering assistance in response to the COVID-19 health emergency. This funding will allow California to move individuals in a "high-risk of complications from COVID-19” category into hotel rooms or other appropriate non-congregate shelter locations. In addition to FEMA’s efforts, the state will also receive emergency stimulus funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assist those impacted by COVID-19 that are experiencing homelessness or may become homeless.  To manage this effort the State of California is implementing a data collection effort that relies on the use of HMIS. 

Guidance from FEMA outlines that the State of California will need to maintain a data tracking system to provide sufficient data and documentation to establish the eligibility of reimbursable costs. With strong support and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the state of California determined that HMIS is the best system by which to track this information. 

State of California NCS Workflow

Program Eligibility 

Clients/households must meet one of the following criteria to be considered eligible for the NCS program:

  • Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 who do not require hospitalization, but need isolation or quarantine (including those exiting from hospitals); 
  • Individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 (as documented by a state or local public health official, or medical health professional) that do not require hospitalization, but need isolation or quarantine; or
  • Individuals who are asymptomatic but are at “high-risk,” such as people over 65 or who have certain underlying health conditions (respiratory, compromised immunities, chronic disease), and who require Emergency NCS as a social distancing measure.

Implementing NCS in Clarity Human Services

To proactively anticipate the needs of all Bitfocus partner communities, our teams have developed guidance and tools in Clarity Human Services to facilitate data collection and reporting for non-congregate sheltering. Standardized components, such as data fields, the project enrollment screen, and a COVID-19 screening tool have been created by Bitfocus and are currently available to all customers. For customers in the state of California, Bitfocus has made additional configurations to facilitate immediate NCS data collection and reporting.

The following configuration steps, detailed in this article, must be completed in order to begin recording data for the NCS Program:

  1. Agency and Program creation*
  2. Creation of custom fields
  3. Program Template creation*
  4. Granting of additional agency access to applicable staff
  5. Creation of services and taxonomy codes*

*for customers in the State of California, these steps were completed by Bitfocus staff. 

Agency and Program Creation

NCS programs will record an enrollment for all households that access Non-Congregate Shelter, regardless of homelessness status. To record these enrollments, system administrators should create a dedicated agency and NCS program. Bitfocus created an agency (FEMA COVID-19) and NCS program (FEMA Non-Congregate Shelter) for each California Clarity Human Services instance.

Communities wanting to set up  an NCS agency and program should use the following specifications:

  • Agency Name = "FEMA COVID-19"
    • For instances with multiple CoCs, there should be multiple FEMA COVID-19 agencies. (i.e. "FEMA COVID-19-[insert CoC name]")
  • Program Name = "FEMA Non-Congregate Shelter"
  • Program Type = "Emergency Shelter"
  • Continuum Project = "No"
  • Method of Tracking = "Entry/Exit Date"
  • Housing Type = "Site based - clustered / multiple site"
  • Program Files = toggle on
  • 2.03 – CoC Code = The CoC(s) in which the project is physically located
  • 2.06 – Funding Sources = "Local or Other Funding Source" 
    • Specify Other Funding Source - "FEMA"
    •  If there are any additional NCS projects in the CoC that will be funded outside of FEMA, they should choose appropriate funding sources as outlined in the HMIS Data Manual.
  • 2.07 – Bed and Unit Inventory Information
    • Inventory records (for distinct household and bed types)
    • Availability of overflow beds
    • Inventory Start Date – date the beds become available
    • Bed Type = “Voucher"
    • Inventory End Date - record an Inventory End Date when the infectious disease crisis response has concluded and the overflow beds have been shuttered

Custom Fields

Although Bitfocus completed a majority of the configuration of fields found in the two new NCS screens, there are two fields that need to be customized by each community (including those in California):

COVID-19: [FEMA] Non-Congregate Shelters (NCS) Enrollment Screen 

Unit name: unit_name

The Unit Name field is used to document the actual name of the residence the client is placed in (i.e. name of hotel, name of apartment building, etc.). There will be a preceding question that asks Unit Type, which is collecting the type of residence the client is placed into (i.e. emergency shelter, hotel, etc.).

For communities with multiple CoCs, the Unit Name picklist is a shared field across your instance of Clarity Human Services. CoCs will need to determine a shared Unit Name picklist together. 

Program Setup Screen

Specify Other Funding Source: funding_source_non_federal

This field is used to indicate the local or other funding source. Communities will need to add FEMA to the picklist responses for this field. 


Bitfocus created core screens for the FEMA Non-Congregate Shelter program that were released to all instances of Clarity Human Services. These screens were used to create templates for the FEMA Non-Congregate Shelter program for customers in the state of California (Program Template "FEMA COVID-19 Non-Congregate Shelter"). If creating a Program Template  for the NCS program, the following screens should be used:

  • Enrollment Screen: [FEMA] Non-Congregate Shelters (NCS) Enrollment
  • Exit Screen: 2020 Minimum Project Exit


Screening Assessment  

Bitfocus created a COVID-19 Screening Tool that is designed in alignment with the Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and HUD guidance. The screening tool is used to determine eligibility for the program, so it should be completed prior to program enrollment. 

The COVID-19 Screening Tool has been released to all instances of Clarity Human Services and made available to the NCS agency for California customers. Customers creating a new agency will need to make the assessment available to the agency.

Additional Agency Access 

The recommended workflow for the FEMA Non-Congregate Shelter program requires users to complete their workflow under the FEMA COVID-19 agency in Clarity Human Services. Communities will need to compile a list of staff who will need to be given additional agency access to the FEMA COVID-19 agency.


Service tracking in HMIS will be optional and will vary by community. Taxonomy codes and services have been set up for each California Clarity Human Services instance. Services have been configured at the program level. Communities can create additional services if needed. 

Note: Using the taxonomy codes will be important for state-level reporting. 

For customers creating these services in their instance, the following service names and taxonomy codes should be used:

Service Taxonomy Code
Meals  FEM1
Site Management Services  FEM2
Security FEM3
Laundry FEM4
Waste Management FEM5
Residential monitoring (i.e. Day/Night monitoring) FEM6
Sanitation Services FEM7
Transportation FEM8
Pet Sheltering  FEM9
Residential Supplies (i.e. hygiene supplies) FEM10
Case Management for behavioral or physical health services  FEM11
Housing Navigation for NCS exit FEM12

Advanced Configuration Options

Though not required, system administrators may choose to utilize the following additional Clarity Human Services features for the NCS program:

Eligibility and Referrals

After completing the COVID-19 Screening Tool, a referral to the FEMA Non-Congregate Shelter or other programs can be recorded in the client record by enabling the Eligibility Engine in the screening tool assessment. System administrators may also choose to set up eligibility criteria for the FEMA Non-Congregate Shelter program so that only qualifying clients and households can be referred. For more information on direct referrals, setting up screens with the eligibility engine, and creating eligibility criteria, see the following Help Center articles:

Community Queue

A community queue can be created to triage clients from initial screening to program enrollment. If your community is currently using the community queue for coordinated entry or another triaging process, this can be accomplished by using multiple community queues. For more information on configuring the community queues and multiple community queues, see: