Inventory

Inventory Setup Best Practices

 

What is Housing Inventory?

Housing Inventory refers to the tracking of Beds and Units within HMIS. Within Clarity, we now have two different ways to record housing inventory: the current method you are already using, and the new Inventory tool. INVENTORY is completely opt-in, and you are not required to use it. However, it does grant many benefits, which we'll describe below.

"Housing" refers to any unit that has a bed; it can apply to Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing, Permanent Supportive Housing, or any other type of project or Unit that has a bed.

Why use INVENTORY?

INVENTORY allows more detailed granularity of bed and unit inventory information, allowing you to collect information about Buildings, Unit Configuration Type (which we like to think of as templates), and Units themselves. You can attach eligibility criteria at all different Inventory levels, allowing for client matching at a more granular level. Communities hoping to track more detailed information about their community's housing inventory will benefit from the flexibility afforded by this new tool. 

You can choose to use INVENTORY, or continue to track your housing inventory using your current method. Both methods are compliant with HUD HMIS Data Standards and reporting requirements. 

Who can see INVENTORY?

System Administrators and Agency Managers can configure Site, Building, Unit Configuration Type templates, and Units within Clarity Human Services. 

All access roles will have potential access to the Inventory module and Inventory Occupancy View. This is because it's a toggle in the access role settings available to all access role types.

What is an Inventory Site?

Inventory Sites are different from Clarity's current Sites. In fact, they have a different name altogether. Entities currently called "Sites" in Clarity will now be renamed "Administrative Sites." Inventory Sites will be named "Housing Inventory Sites" in Clarity.

You can decide whether you want to configure your Sites as Administrative or Housing Inventory. It depends on your ultimate reporting goals. If you choose to use the new Inventory functionality for your Program's federal reporting, then reporting will be based on the configuration in the Housing Inventory Sites section of Clarity Human Services.

Even if you only have one Building in your Site, you still need to create a Housing Inventory Site.

You will not assign a Program to this level unless 100% of all Units within the Site are used by the same Program. If that is not the case (i.e., 99.999% or less of Inventory is used by a single Program), you will typically assign the Program at the Unit Configuration Type level (details below).

Note: Some people find it helpful to think of Housing Inventory Sites as the "property" since you can have one or more buildings on one piece of property.

What is an Inventory Building?

Inventory Buildings are physical structures set up under Inventory Sites that represent real, physical buildings. You can configure Buildings with Eligibility criteria, Funding Sources, custom fields, and photos. 

Buildings are an important component of the system since you will need to have them configured in order to configure Inventory Units. The exception to this is a Site that contains a single Unit (Site Type: Standalone Unit). Standalone Unit-type Sites do not contain Inventory Buildings.

The best practice is to set this up to reflect your actual, physical Buildings. 

You will not assign a Program to this level unless 100% of all Units within the Building are used by the same Program. If that is not the case (i.e., 99.999% or less of Inventory is used by a single Program), you will typically assign the Program at the Unit Configuration Type level. Even if 100% of a Building's units are dedicated for use by one Program today, assigning the Program at the next level, the Unit Configuration Type level, will allow you maximum flexibility for the future. So as a best practice, we recommend setting up Programs at the Unit Configuration Type level.

What is an Inventory Unit Configuration Type?

You can think of a Unit Configuration Type as a template onto which you assign attributes of an actual physical Unit, such as bed count. Once you set up a Unit Configuration Type with all the appropriate information, you can then assign it to a physical Unit (see below).

For example, you might have a building where some units have a kitchen and two bedrooms, and other units are single occupancy with a microwave.  You can create these two templates at this level and then assign them to multiple units to equal the total number of units in your Building. 

Every housing Program participating in the new Inventory tool should have its own set of Unit Configuration Types. Only one Program can be assigned to a Unit Configuration Type at a time.

The vast majority of Program assignments will occur at the Unit Configuration Type level.

What is an Inventory Unit?

A Unit reflects an actual, physical Unit within a building. This is what you would normally think of as a Unit within a living structure. Units will have Unit Numbers (where applicable), physical attributes of the Unit, custom fields, and the ability to assign Eligibility and Funding Sources.

The best practice for setting up a Unit is to set up most characteristics under the Unit Configuration Type template (see above) and then assign the Unit Configuration Type to the Unit. The advantage of setting it up this way is that, if you have a set of physical Units within a building that share common characteristics, you can set up those characteristics under the Unit Configuration Type (template) and connect that Configuration to multiple Units, rather than taking the time to set up the characteristics within each individual Unit.

However, if you do want to collect specific characteristics about a Unit (for example, maybe that particular Unit is painted yellow), then the system will allow the flexibility for you to add such information at the Unit level.

Note: This is separate from Eligibility criteria, which are configured in the "Eligibiity" section for each applicable level (Site, Building, Unit Configuration Type, or Unit).

How Do I Set Up Scattered Site Units?

The best practice for setting up scattered Sites in Inventory is to set them up under one "Site" and select Site Type = Scattered SIte. This approach allows you to easily add additional Units to the scattered Site Program as they become available. This will generally involve setting up multiple Buildings as applicable for each of the Units that exist at various physical buildings. 

Setting it up this way will consolidate the reporting into one location, keeping reporting efficient and straightforward. We recommend this route if you are setting up a scattered Site Program and wish to use Inventory for the setup.

How Do I Set Up RRH Programs?

RRH Programs are set up just as normal; if you choose to use Inventory then you will usually follow the scattered Site setup described above. We know that RRH setup can be tricky; if needed, please contact Bitfocus Support for assistance.

While setting up RRH Programs, please refer to the address setup guidelines for RRH Programs on pages 45-46 of the 2020 Data Standards Manual.

How Do I Set Up Standalone Units?

When setting up your Site, you will select "Site Type = Standalone Unit" on the setup page. You will then add the details about the Standalone Unit directly to the right sidebar, setting up a Unit Configuration Type and a Unit. This method bypasses the need to add a Building to the Site.

Setting up a Standalone Unit is likely a rare event since most Units are located within Buildings, and therefore we recommend setting up the Site and Building as described above.  However, there may be cases such as a shared housing Program where setting up a Standalone Unit to represent a room in a shared home may be applicable.

How Do I Set Up Services Only Programs?

Services Only Programs are set up just like you did before. Services Only Programs are not set up within Inventory. Inventory is for use solely by housing Programs.

Which Programs Can I Set Up with INVENTORY?

INVENTORY is for use by housing Programs. The following project types are not included in the Inventory model:

  • Services Only
  • Street Outreach
  • Other
  • Coordinated Entry
  • Day Shelter 
  • Homeless Prevention

Where do I attach Eligibility?

Because you can attach Eligibility at many different Inventory levels, you may find it overwhelming to decide where to attach Eligibility. We've compiled a list of best practices to help guide your setup:

When To Set Up Eligibility at Site Level

The only time you should set Eligibility up at the Site level is when 100% of all Buildings and Units within that Site have that Eligibility Criteria.

When To Set Up Eligibility at Building Level

The only time you set Eligibility up at the Building level is when 100% of all Units within that Building have that Eligibility Criteria. Although this is possible, it is often not the case, so you will probably not set up Eligibility at this level very often.

When To Set Up Eligibility Should at Unit Configuration Type Level

You will most likely set up Eligibility at this level. We strongly recommend using this level as your default setup level for Eligibility, as it grants the most flexibility in setting up your Units, Buildings, and Sites with Eligibility and allows for accurate client matching.

When in doubt, assume you should use this level for Eligibility setup.

When To Set Up Eligibility at Unit Level

Very rarely, you may have a situation where a particular Unit in a Building has a unique feature that ties it to Eligibility. For example, you might have an upstairs unit in a historic building that needs an Eligibility criterion specifying that it is not ADA-accessible. In this case, you may enter it at this level. However, we still strongly recommend setting up at the Unit Configuration Type Level where possible, as that will grant you the most flexibility with your setup and is the most sustainable long-term.

Where do I attach Funding Sources?

Even if you are using INVENTORY, you can continue to set up funding sources in Clarity according to the following instructions in our Help Center:

However, just like connecting funding sources to projects prior to using Inventory, you will now be able to connect funding sources at all levels: Site, Building, Unit Configuration Type, and Unit. 

When To Set Up Funding Sources at Site Level

The only time you set Eligibility up at the Site level is when 100% of all Buildings and Units within that Site have that Funding Source. 

When To Set Up Funding Sources at Building Level

The only time you set Eligibility up at the Building level is when 100% of all Units within that Building have that Funding Source. 

When to Set Up Funding Sources at Unit Configuration Type Level

We strongly recommended using this level as your default setup level for Funding Sources, as it grants the most flexibility in setting up your Units, Buildings, and Sites with Funding Sources and allows for accurate client matching.

When in doubt, assume you should use this level for Funding Source setup.

When To Set Up Funding Sources at Unit Level

Very rarely, you may have a situation where a particular Unit in a building has a specific Funding Source. In this case, you may enter it at this level. However, we still strongly recommend setting up at the Unit Configuration Type Level where possible, as that will grant you the most flexibility with your setup and is the most sustainable long-term.

Where do I attach Programs?

If not using Inventory to manage the beds and units associated with a specific Program, you will still add your beds and units as you did before (How to Set Up a Program: Detailed Instructions ). However, if using Inventory to manage your housing and shelter beds, you will instead attach the relevant Program(s) to the Housing Inventory (at either the Site, Building, or Unit Configuration Type levels). 

When To Set Up a Program at Site Level

The only time you attach a Program at the Site level is if 100% of all Buildings and Units within that Site are all operated by only a single Program. You can only assign one Program at the Site level.

When To Set Up a Program at Building Level

The only time you set up a Program at the Building level is if 100% of all Units within that Building are all operated by only the single Program. You can only assign one Program at the Building level.

When To Attach a Program to the Unit Configuration Type Level

We strongly recommended using this level as your default setup level for Programs, as it grants the most flexibility in setting up your Units, Buildings, and Sites with Programs and allows for accurate client matching.

When in doubt, assume you should use the Unit Configuration Type level for attaching Programs.

Note: You cannot set up Programs at the Unit level. The Unit automatically inherits the Program assignment that is attached to the Unit Configuration Type (see the diagram below for a visualization of this design).

Things to Consider When Making the Switch:

Before switching from the standard inventory process to Inventory, there are certain considerations that should be taken into account, to ensure a smooth transition.

  • What are my staffing needs? Making a switch to a new model within a software always involves at least some work on the part of the providers and System Administrators. Configuration work is the most time-consuming, so that should be taken into account. Remember that with Inventory, you are going to be collecting Site, Building, Unit Configuration template, and Unit information. Since this is a new process, the inventory collection and subsequent configuration will require a plan, process, and a quality assurance process to ensure successful configuration.

    Similarly, training will be necessary, as you will need to make sure all stakeholders who use Clarity Human Services will be able to navigate the new tool. We recommend including training as a major component of your project plan for rolling out Clarity Inventory in your community. You should also take into account all of the staff who will be using this tool. How will you address any resistance in the community? If users request additional training after the first round, how will you accomplish it long term? How might you alleviate your community's concerns around current or future processes?

  • What are my reporting needs? Inventory will be programmed to meet all federal reporting requirements and maintain compliance with the HUD HMIS Data Standards. However, you likely have additional requirements specific to your community, including local funders, and this usually means you have custom reporting requirements for these funders. As such, you will need to take into account the new inventory structure to ensure that any specific reporting requirements are considered when designing, configuring, and QA'ing your new Inventory setup.

    Some important items to consider:
      • When is the next reporting cycle? The timing will determine when you should "cut over" to the new model.
      • What specific fields does this funder require in the report, and how will I get these fields out of the Inventory structure? Please note that Inventory fields will be available in Data Analysis/Looker.
      • Is there a way to simplify or change the reporting structure to meet the Inventory structure? Our goal with Inventory is to unify the two sides — beds & people — to make your workflows more efficient. This is an opportunity to review your internal processes, reimagine them, and simplify your workflows.

  • Timing considerations: You will need to consider the timing needs for your community and funders, and establish an implementation timeline for Inventory rollout. You should prioritize taking into account reporting timelines to ensure you aren't switching over at an awkward time in the reporting process that will delay or prevent the submission of important funder reports. You should also consider how long it will take your team to gather Inventory, conduct configuration, and conduct QA/testing on the implementation. Some communities will choose to roll everything out at once, while others may prefer a more phased approach to ensure that priority Programs are moved over first. Here are some questions to consider:
      • What is my overall goal for moving over to Inventory, and what is the ideal timeline for that goal?
      • What are the action items that will get me to my final goal, and what is the timeline for each of those action items?
      • Who will be assigned to each action item, and what is their work capacity and estimated time to complete each task?
      • Will there be any sort of migration of data to accomplish the implementation of Inventory? How long is it estimated to take?
      • How will this impact our coordinated entry system, and how will we mitigate any negative impacts on the users and people experiencing homelessness who are served by that system?

Should I Move all Programs and Program Types?

You have the option of choosing which Programs to move over to the Inventory. For example, you could choose to move over one Program and leave the rest as-is. You could choose to move over all Permanent Supportive Housing Programs and leave all other Program Types as-is. You have total flexibility over which Programs move over. As stated previously, your federal reporting and HMIS Data Standards requirements will remain compliant regardless of which Programs you move over, so you won't need to worry about federal compliance.

When considering which Programs to move over, please consider the following:

  1. What are the local reporting requirements for your community, and how will they be impacted? (For example, you may have a custom canned report that is programmed around the current Administrative Inventory structure, and you may need to consider a report update when moving to Inventory).
  2. What are the workflows in the community for each of the Programs? Do some users enter data into multiple Programs, and if so, does it make sense that they all have the same exact inventory workflow? 
  3. Which stakeholders need to approve before changing the Program inventory structure? You may need to consult with your CoC before making adjustments to Program inventory collection, and this is also likely needed on an Agency-by-Agency basis.

You might be considering whether this should be an all-or-nothing move or whether you should move some Programs and not others. The decision on how to do so is entirely up to you. Just remember that moving Programs to the new model will require potential reporting updates, training needs, inventory collection and configuration work, potential migration work, and political buy-in from your community partners.

In the example above, the Greenwood Site has a building located at 1 Main Street, Big City, CA.  

The Building is funded by Funding Source "HSH" that itself contains two eligibility criteria:

  • Those receiving services funded by HSH must be at or below 50% AMI.
  • Those receiving services funded by HSH must be literally homeless.
  • Both eligibility criteria listed above will apply down to all Buildings, Unit Configuration Types, and Units within the Site.

Additionally, within the 1 Main Street Building, there are two units. A project called Faith House provides housing in Unit 1, and a project called Joy House provides housing in Unit 2. 

Unit 1 has three potential unit configurations:

    • 1 bedroom with 1 bed
    • 1 bedroom with 2 beds
    • 1 bedroom with 3 beds

Unit 2 has three potential unit configurations:

    • 1 bedroom with 1 bed
    • 1 bedroom with 2 beds
    • 1 bedroom with 3 beds

Each project has its own set of unit configuration types because only one project at a time can be assigned to a Unit Configuration Type. So even though both Unit 1 and Unit 2 have the same potential configurations (1 bed, 2 bed, 3 bed), there need to be two sets of unit configuration templates set up.

Additionally:

Project Faith House has the following eligibility requirements:

    • Clients must attend weekly counseling sessions
    • Client age must fit into the definition of transitional aged youth (TAY)
    • The above two eligibility criteria will automatically apply to the Unit Configuration Type(s) to which the project is assigned. When the Unit Configuration Type is then assigned to Unit 1 (there can only be one Unit Configuration Type assigned to a Unit at any one time), the eligibility criteria will automatically apply to Unit 1.

Project Joy House has the following eligibility requirement:

    • Client must be an adult
    • The above eligibility criterion will automatically apply to the Unit Configuration Type(s) to which the project is assigned. When the Unit Configuration Type is then assigned to Unit 2, the eligibility criterion will automatically apply to Unit 2.

Additionally, Unit 1 and Unit 2 both contain their own eligibility criteria specific to their physical Unit:

    • Clients/Households served in Unit 1 must be at or below 30% AMI
    • Clients served in Unit 2 must be veterans
    • The Units inherit any of the additional eligibility criteria that were set at the Unit Configuration Type (assigned to the Unit), the Building, and the Site.