The Importance of Collecting Accurate Social Security Numbers

Where data are shared across projects, the Social Security Number (SSN) greatly facilitates the process of identifying clients who have been served and allows projects to de-duplicate at project start. 

Where data are not shared, CoCs rely on unique identifiers to produce an unduplicated count in the central server once the data are sent to the HMIS Lead. Name and date of birth are useful unique identifiers, but the SSN is significantly more accurate.

Also, an important objective for ending homelessness is to increase access and utilization of mainstream programs by persons who are experiencing homelessness or are at-risk of homelessness. Since SSN is a required data element for many mainstream programs, projects may need the SSN in order to help their clients access mainstream services. pg. 62

What if the client doesn't have an SSN, or refuses to provide one?

In rare situations, you may be creating a record for a client who hasn't been assigned an SSN. Other times, clients may refuse to provide their SSN. In most cases, you must provide services for the client. However, HUD lists the following exception:

Under the Privacy Act of 1974, you may not deny shelter or services to clients who refuse to provide their SSN, unless the requirement was in effect before 1975 or SSN is a statutory requirement for receiving services from the project. For example, in order to receive Homelessness Prevention or Rapid Re-Housing services through Supportive Services for Veteran Families grants, veterans must provide a Social Security number in order to receive services because it’s relevant to verifying eligibility. The veteran’s household members, however, may decline to provide a Social Security number. 

But in other cases, if the client either doesn't have their SSN readily available or refuses to provide it, enter all zeroes in the intake screen, rather than guess at the number or make one up. In the 'Quality of SSN' drop-down box, select the description that best fits: 'Approximate or partial SSN reported,' 'Client doesn't know,' 'Client refused,' or 'Data not collected'. 

Contact Us

If you need help or wish to offer suggestions or feedback, please contact the Cincinnati/Hamilton County HMIS Support Team at or by calling 513-263-2790 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday through Friday excluding holidays. 

Please note: When contacting HMIS Support, please do not include any Personal Identifiable Information such as social security numbers, birth dates, etc. Acceptable information is first name and last 4 digits of SSN, or Clarity Unique Identifier found on the Clarity client's profile page.