Clarify the demand

Step 2: Clarify the demand

We cannot end homelessness in the abstract.  During the Registry Week, your local campaign team will create a by-name and photograph registry of everyone experiencing homelessness in your chosen area.  Only those homeless who formally consent to participate are photographed and registered. This registry will then be broken down into sub-populations that are grouped in line with your local housing and services resources, e.g. by “vulnerable veterans” or “vulnerable seniors” or “vulnerable dually-diagnosed” individuals.  This process helps the local community quantify and qualify the “demand” in such a way that lends itself to more data-driven negotiations with the people who control housing and support resources in your community.  

The challenge:

  • Point-in-time count data is an insufficient level of detail to accurately forecast housing and service needs.  
  • HIPAA regulations and duplication of services make it difficult to create a consolidated registry of long-term and vulnerable homeless served by existing programs.
  • Some highly vulnerable and long-term homeless people are not known by outreach teams or programs.
  • Lack of consensus on prioritization for housing placement.

The solution:

  • Conduct a Registry Week during which your local campaign team will create a by-name registry of your community’s homeless population by bringing together volunteers to survey your homeless population in the early morning hours.
  • Prioritize for housing placement according to the findings from the Vulnerability Index.


  • Vulnerability Index Survey
  • Vulnerability Index Database
  • Registry Week
  • Frequent User Algorithm for Hospitals

What you need to do:

  • Attend Quarterly Cohort Webex on Clarifying the Demand
  • Decide how you will create your by-name registry:
    1)  Option 1: Host two certified Registry Week facilitators to help you with the process. The cost is approximately $5,000 for two facilitators' time, in addition to travel and local lodging costs.
    2)  Option 2: Attend a registry week boot camp, a 3-day intensive training held in a campaign community each quarter. Check our events page for the next boot camp. Cost is $500 per person, plus transportation and lodging (we offer details on a discounted hotel rate).
    3)  Option 3: Integrate the Vulnerability Index into your outreach team’s standard operating procedures or into your HMIS. This option works well, so long as you are confident your outreach teams have the capacity to consistently and methodically get to everyone on the streets.
  • Partner with local hospitals to administer Vulnerability Index surveys in the emergency rooms and with their most frequent patients during the Registry Week.
  • Conduct your Registry Week and/or integrate Vulnerability Index into outreach.
  • Use Vulnerability Index Database reports to identify your sub-populations (veterans, seniors, youth, dually-diagnosed, frequent users, etc).

Promising practices:

  • Using the Vulnerability Index Survey, New York City and Denver outreach providers consistently and methodically identify the most long-term and vulnerable homeless on the streets and prioritize for housing placement.
  • Fort Worth convened a task force and added more conditions to the Vulnerability Index to reflect more closely the unique concerns of their community.

Key lessons:

  • First come first served will not end homelessness. Prioritization is difficult, but essential.
  • Use the process of clarifying demand to bring the community together and reach consensus across a wide-range of stakeholders so that you can build momentum.  Collaboration toward housing placement is incredibly difficult in the abstract but much easier once you’re talking about specific people by name.
  • Photographs are incredibly important for helping the community work together.  It is very difficult to go back and find people when all you have is a name.