HIFIS 3 Software

Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS) 3 is an electronic records management system built for, and in consultation with, community stakeholders. It is provided free-of-charge as a means to:

  • assist in daily operations such as booking clients in and out, and reporting on shelter use, and
  • collect statistics about the population accessing the services that are provided.

Before you begin

System requirements

Before downloading the HIFIS 3 software, ensure your computer system meets the following requirements:

  • Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8 / 10
  • Pentium IV or higher
  • Minimum 1 GB RAM
  • Minimum 20 GB Hard Drive
  • CD Burner or memory stick is recommended for Exports and Backups
  • Printer is required to print reports
  • Internet access is recommended for exports, updates and support

Information sharing

A goal of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS), through NHIS, is to gather shelter use information from HIFIS and other sources to develop a national portrait of homelessness. This will contribute to the development of policies and effective measures to reduce and prevent homelessness across Canada. The release of the expanded version of the software, HIFIS 3.8, will allow for the collection of up to 38 fields of information to support a more robust portrait of homelessness.

With the release of HIFIS 3.8 and to allow additional fields of information to be shared with the HPS, HIFIS users are required to sign a new Data Provision Agreement (DPA), unless they operate in provinces where a separate DPA is being negotiated at the provincial level. The DPA requires service providers to export HIFIS data to NHIS on a quarterly basis.

The DPA details the responsibilities of all service providers that are entering data into the HIFIS software in respect to data collection, privacy and security. It also outlines the Government of Canada's responsibilities and obligation related to the use and protection of data received from service providers.


To receive on demand, customized training on the HIFIS software, visit the HIFIS 3 Training Centre. Here you will find online courses that will help you learn what you need to know about the HIFIS software.

For information on other training options, please contact NHIS.

Switching or upgrading to HIFIS 3.8

From an earlier version of HIFIS 3

If you are switching to HIFIS 3.8 from a previous version of HIFIS 3, you will first need to update to HIFIS 3.74. This version will include all the instructions and steps necessary for transitioning to HIFIS 3.8. Read the HIFIS 3.8 Implementation Guide for more information.

From HIFIS 1 to HIFIS 2

If your existing data is from HIFIS 1 or HIFIS 2, a quick data conversion process will be necessary to make your data compatible with HIFIS 3. This is done by the HIFIS support desk.

From another system

When you decide to switch to HIFIS from a different system, the HIFIS technical team will work with you to analyze whether your existing data can be converted to the HIFIS 3 system.

Installation and activation of HIFIS 3 software

Follow the steps in this section to install and activate the software:

  1. Set up the network
  2. Download and install
  3. Learn the software
  4. Register with the initiative
  5. Activate the software
  6. Configure the software

Set up the network

If you have a local network at your service provider, you can set up a HIFIS network, which allows you to see your HIFIS data on more than one computer. For more information setting up your network, refer to the "How-To Set Up HIFIS on a Network document", found in "Get HIFIS Documents" in the Help Menu of the HIFIS software.

Download and Install

When you begin to download the software, you will be prompted to accept the End-User Licence Agreement (EULA). A EULA is a type of agreement that is standard with the acquisition of any software. It outlines what you may or may not do with the software and what the Government of Canada's obligations are in that respect. By clicking 'Accept,' you are indicating that you are authorized to accept the terms of the EULA on behalf of your organization and that you will abide by them. If you 'Decline,' the software will not download.

After you accept the EULA, a demo version of the software will be installed, including a training database that is limited to 37 clients. In order to begin using the software in your organization with no client limit, you must first register with NHIS and sign a Data Provision Agreement. For more information, read the Things to Know page or refer to the following documents:

Learn the software

To learn how to use HIFIS, we encourage you to visit the HIFIS 3 Training Centre at any time for on demand training. You can also use the Help Menu of the HIFIS software, which includes a number of manuals on how to use the software and Help Files.

The software comes preloaded with a demo database to practice on as you work through the manuals. This demo database will be removed when you activate your HIFIS 3 software.

Register with the Initiative

In HIFIS 3.74 and subsequent versions, registration is done through the HIFIS software. For help with registering, read the HIFIS 3.8 Implementation Guide. For versions before HIFIS 3.74 or if you do not have access to the internet from the computer on which HIFIS is installed, contact the HIFIS Support Desk for assistance.

When you register with NHIS, you will receive a Site ID. Your Site ID is a number unique to you. It helps the HIFIS support desk and the NHIS team identify your service provider during a support call, during the activation process and when receiving data exports.

If there is a change in the information about your organization, such as a new phone number or address, you can update your registration information in the Legal Matters screen of HIFIS 3.74 or subsequent versions.

Activate the software

Activating the HIFIS software will:

  • remove HIFIS 3 Demo and Training data;
  • establish your Primary Service Provider;
  • remove the 37 client limit; and
  • enable you to start entering your own data.

Before activating, you will need to register with NHIS and, in most cases, you will need to sign a Data Provision Agreement (DPA). Once your signed DPA is received and the process is completed with the signature of the Director General of the HPS, the Activate button will be enabled in the Legal Matters screen of HIFIS 3.8.

If you do not have access to the internet from the computer on which HIFIS is installed, contact the HIFIS Support Desk to obtain an activation key.

You will need to provide your Shelter Name and the Site ID that you received when you registered with NHIS.

Configure the software

Once the activation is completed, the next step is to configure the HIFIS software to meet the needs of your service provider.

Information to have available before you start:

  • A list of rooms and bed numbers for your shelter. If room or bed numbers do not exist, you will have to create a list ahead of time.
  • A list of staff members and a HIFIS User ID for each person who will be using HIFIS, as well as their role.
  • A list of programs used by your shelter, and the rates and fixed costs associated with each program.

Administrators should configure the following screens in HIFIS 3 before entering any other data:

  • Service Providers
  • Users
  • HIFIS Defaults
  • Rooms & Beds
  • Programs
  • Age Brackets
  • Mandatory Fields
  • Look-Up Tables

Updating the HIFIS 3 software

If your HIFIS 3 software is on a computer that is connected to the Internet, the software will check for updates on a regular basis and will give you the option to download them to your computer through the automatic updates feature.

To check manually, go to the Help menu located in the HIFIS software and choose 'Check for HIFIS updates'.

You can also download the latest update: HIFIS 3.74 Update only, January 31, 2013 (EXE, 64 MB).

Version HIFIS 3.8

HIFIS 3.8 is the latest version of the HIFIS software. It includes many new features such as: Case Management, Life Events, Refugees, Education, Veterans, Housing Placements, Waiting Lists, Messaging, Incidents and Medication. HIFIS 3.8 also includes an expanded inventory of reports that can be generated.

HIFIS Mobile has been designed to give you direct access to your client's information on the go, with the features that will help you most when away from the shelter. The features available through HIFIS Mobile include Client Search, Bed Availability, User-to-User Messaging and Client Details. All of these features have been designed to be compatible with various handsets and mobile connection speeds. The pages are minimal and navigation is quick, allowing you to easily manage your HIFIS data while on the road.

Upcoming version of HIFIS

The next version of the software, HIFIS 4, is already well into development. It will be the biggest change to the software since it was first created. HIFIS 4 will be web-based and therefore every feature of HIFIS will be accessible from any internet-connected computer or mobile device without any installation. As in HIFIS 3, data entered into HIFIS will still be located at the service provider hosting the application.

In addition, HIFIS 4 is designed to have a faster development cycle, which means the HIFIS team will be able to respond to user needs faster than ever before, in addition to providing the features you already use in HIFIS 3.

Online help and support for HIFIS 3

Online training

To receive on demand, customized training on the HIFIS software, visit the HIFIS Training Centre. Here you will find online courses that will help you learn what you need to know about the HIFIS software.

Support documents

The following documents are all available through the HIFIS software. To download them, open the Help menu in the software and choose 'Get HIFIS Documents'.

  • HIFIS 3.8 How To Guide: Administration: Quick reference guide to the functions within the Administration window
  • HIFIS 3.8 How To Guide: Front Desk: Quick reference guide to the functions within the Front Desk window
  • HIFIS 3.8 How To Guide: Reports: Overview of the Report Manager feature in HIFIS
  • HIFIS 3.8 Reference Manual: Administration: Provides descriptions of all of the windows, fields and terms within the Front Desk window
  • HIFIS 3.8 Reference Manual: Front Desk – Provides descriptions of all of the windows, fields and terms within the Front Desk window
  • HIFIS 3.8 Self-Training Exercise: Short introduction to the HIFIS software (great for new employees).
  • HIFIS 3.8 How-To Guide: Implementation
  • How-To Update HIFIS
  • How-To Setup HIFIS on a Network

Once the file has been successfully downloaded, the pop-up window will inform you of the location of the file.

Questions and answers

  • Getting the HIFIS software

    After you have decided to implement the HIFIS 3.8 software at your service provider site, you must first go through the steps found in the Legal Matters screen found on the Control Panel of version 3.74 and later.

    Once you have registered, NHIS will assign you a site ID, which will be updated automatically in the Legal Matters screen. You will then need to sign and submit a Data Provision Agreement (DPA). Once this is received and signed, you will be able to activate in the Activation tab. If your HIFIS computer is not connected to the internet, contact the HIFIS Support Desk for assistance.

  • Activating the HIFIS software

    With HIFIS 3.8, you no longer need to obtain activation keys. In the Activation tab of the Legal Matters screen, accessed through the HIFIS Control Panel, click Activate Now when it is available. If you are not a current HIFIS 3.7 user and have existing data to be converted to the 3.8 format, you will need to contact the HIFIS Support Desk for assistance before activating your software.

    If your HIFIS computer is not connected to the internet, contact the HIFIS Support Desk for assistance.

    Once HIFIS is activated, the demo database will be erased and you will need to configure your HIFIS software in order to begin entering your data.

  • Configuring a service provider

    Note: Only an administrator can perform this task.

    1. Primary Service Provider: When you register with NHIS, the service provider info will be automatically filled in the primary service provider record. Ensure that any other relevant information is also entered in the fields.
    2. Secondary Service Providers.
    3. Create Users and assign User Rights.
    4. Set the HIFIS Defaults according to the preferences of the Service Provider site.
    5. Create Rooms & Beds.
    6. Create funding Programs associated with the Service Provider, if applicable.
    7. Ensure that the Age Brackets are correct or create new ones if necessary.
    8. Set Mandatory Fields.
    9. In Look-up Tables and Localised Tables, ensure any values specific to the new Service Providers are enabled or created.
  • Installing HIFIS on a network

    Please download the document How-To: Setup HIFIS on a Network from 'Get HIFIS Documents' in the HIFIS Help menu.

  • Copying the HIFIS software from an old computer to a new computer

    Note: The following instructions are for stand-alone installations only. For help with HIFIS on a network, refer to the How-To: Setup HIFIS on a Network' document found in Get HIFIS Documents in the HIFIS Help menu.

    You first need to create a backup of your HIFIS database. Login to HIFIS and backup. You then need to download and install HIFIS on the new computer. From the old computer, copy the backup file (found in C:HSBackup) to a USB portable device and then copy it to C:HSBackup on the new computer.

    On the new computer, login to HIFIS with the user name admin and the password admin1, open the Administration screen and select Database Maintenance. Click 'Restore' and then click the Select Folder button. The backup you just copied from the old computer will appear in the list. Choose the Backup file and click the blue checkmark button.

    The Backup file you selected will appear in the Database Restoration screen. Click the Restore button. A screen opens warning that a restore will completely replace any existing data with your backup. If you have any concerns about the process, contact the HIFIS Support Desk for assistance.

    Note: Since you are working with a copy, there is no risk of corrupting your original HIFIS database, however, great care should always be taken when working with HIFIS data. If you have any questions or concerns, please call the HIFIS Support Desk.

    Click Yes to continue with the Restoration process.

    When you click Yes, the Backup file will replace the demo/training database from the HIFIS application installed on your new computer.

  • Updating HIFIS when already installed on a network

    As of version 3.70.2126, HIFIS updates are done automatically. Go to the Help Menu in HIFIS and click 'Check for HIFIS Updates.' For further information, download the document How-To: Update HIFIS from 'Get HIFIS Documents' in the Help menu or call the HIFIS Support Desk at 1-866-324-2375.

  • HIFIS demo/training Client User ID and Password

    Password: TRAININGC

  • HIFIS demo/training Admin User ID and Password

    User ID: ADMIN
    Password: ADMIN1

  • HIFIS User ID and Password after activation

    After activation, all demo users are removed except for the ADMIN account.

    User ID: ADMIN
    Password: ADMIN1


  • Enabling Family buttons

    Note: Only an administrator can perform this task.

    For the Family buttons to be enabled, there are three conditions that must be met.

    1. You must have the ability to serve families at this Service Provider. In the software, click the Administration button and select Service Providers. From the list, select the service provider for which you wish to create Family records. Click the Edit button and select the Serves Families check box under Other Attributes. Save the changes.
    2. The user must have the appropriate user rights.
    3. To start a family from a client record, the client must be old enough to be a Family Head. The minimum age for a Family Head is set in the Boundaries tab of HIFIS Defaults.
  • Booking in/out family members

    In the Graphical Book-In screen, ensure that all members of the family are selected for Book in or Book out by clicking the Add All button in the bottom left of the screen and then proceed with the Book-In or Book-Out. In Book-In, you will need to assign a bed to each family member in the Shelter Map screen.

  • Adding a member to an existing family

    In the Clients screen, select a member of the individual's family. Click the Edit button and select Family. The Family Management screen opens and displays the names of the individuals who are already members of the family. Select the Add New Member button to open the Client Search window. Select the individual and use the blue check mark button to confirm.

  • Inactivated 'Start a Family' button after creating a new client

    Note: Only an administrator can perform this task.

    In Administration, click HIFIS Defaults. Under the Boundaries tab, verify the Minimum Age of Family Head. The age of the client created must be equal or greater than the minimum age indicated in order to start a family.

    If the user is still unable to use the Start a Family button, ensure that they have the appropriate user rights.

  • Assigning two clients to the same bed

    The HIFIS software does not allow the assignment of more than one person to a bed.

  • Searching for a Client Record by its file number

    Note: The file number can be entered in Client Details.

    In the Front Desk, select either Reception or Clients. At the top of the screen, enter the File # in the appropriate field. The cursor will automatically highlight the Client Record that corresponds to the File # you have entered.

  • Sorting Client Records by file number while viewing the 'Reception' screen

    In the HIFIS software, any column headings coloured in blue can be sorted alphabetically or numerically by double clicking on the blue heading.

  • Displaying the required shelter in the 'Service Provider' drop down menu

    Note: Only an administrator can perform this task.

    The required service provider must be assigned to the HIFIS User. In the Administration screen, click the Users button. Select the User ID from the List, and click on Edit the current record. Click the Assign User to Service Provider button. Double click the service providers you wish to assign to the user to move them from the Available list to the Selected list. Click on the blue check mark button to confirm. If necessary, change the Default Service Provider to the service provider that the user will select most often. Save changes.

  • Booking out a client when only the 'in' portion is accessible

    Note: Only an administrator can perform this task.

    This behaviour is caused by invalid Stay data. A client can have numerous stays but only the most recent can be active (not booked out yet). To resolve your problem, you must ensure that all but the most recent stay has a book out date and that there are no other illogical stay dates.

    Go to Administration and Data Integrity Tools. Select Concurrent Stays. This tool will identify any instances of multiple book ins without a book out date. Choose the stay that has ended but does not have a book out date and click on the Modify Stay Dates button to fix it.

    If this tool does not fix the problem, in Data Integrity Tools go to the Stay Date Chronology screen. Click on the blue check mark button to run the analyzer. If the progress bar turns red, a problem has been found. Click on the Modify Stay Dates button. When you have corrected the problem record, click on the blue check mark button again to complete the analyzer.

  • Accessing 'Book Out' when one of the clients is booked in and highlighted in yellow in the Reception screen

    A client will be highlighted in yellow in Reception if they are booked into a shelter that the current user does not have access to.

    Note: Only an administrator can perform this task.

    If the user should have access to that service provider, go to Administration and choose Users. Select the Edit button and click Assign Users to Service Provider(s) and add the service provider to the Selected list by double clicking on the service provider name. Click on the blue check mark button, then save and exit.

Client Details

  • Deleting a client's picture in the HIFIS application

    In the Client Details screen under Physical Attributes, right click on the Select Photo button to unselect a client's photo.


  • Copy user rights from one HIFIS user to another

    Note: Only an administrator can perform this task.

    Only users within the same 'User Type' group (i.e. Administrator, Standard) can share user rights or service providers.

    1. Create the new user and save the record.
      Note: Select the User Type but do not change any rights at this point.
    2. From the List tab, select the user you wish to copy rights from and:
      Note: Follow the same steps to clone a user's service providers.
      1. Click the More button.
      2. Select 'Clone This User's Rights'.
      3. Select a User from the Available column and click the blue check mark to confirm. Save.
  • Sorting User Profiles by columns

    In the HIFIS software, any column headings coloured in blue can be sorted alphabetically or numerically by double clicking on the heading. In the User Profiles this applies to User ID, Last Name and First Name.


  • Creating Adhoc reports in HIFIS 3

    In HIFIS 3, you cannot create an Adhoc report. All reports are pre-defined by the HIFIS Team in consultation with HIFIS users. If you require a specific report that is not already available in HIFIS, please contact the HIFIS Support Desk detailing exactly what you need in the report. An example of what you want the report to look like is also helpful. Your request will be put in a queue depending on its national relevance and new reports that have been developed by the HIFIS Team will be included in the HIFIS Updates.

  • Running a report highlighted in grey

    A report title highlighted in grey signifies that the selected report is not accessible to the current user because their user rights do not allow them to view either reports including financial information or client names. If the logged on user should have access to the report, follow these instructions.

    Note: Only an administrator can perform this task.

    In the Users screen, select the user and click the Edit button. Modify this user's rights by clicking the Change User Rights button. Using the Plus buttons, navigate to Reports and ensure that the User can see reports containing Client Names or reports containing Financial Information.


  • "File access is denied..."

    "File access is denied" is a network access error that could be due either to another user trying to access files in HIFIS during an update, a backup or similar task or due to insufficient Windows network rights.

  • "Error loading printer driver"

    This error occurs in the Report Manager when a default printer isn't set up in your Windows profile. For help with this, see the Help Files for Microsoft Windows.

  • BLAT error

    When an error occurs, a message asks if you want to email the error log to the HIFIS Support Desk. The BLAT error occurs when this error email fails to send, either because the software isn't configured properly for your email account or because there is no internet connection on the computer you are using.

    To fix the BLAT error and to automate the sending of error messages when they occur, go to HIFIS Defaults in Administration. Click the Settings tab and choose the program used for email. If you are using any program other than Outlook, choose Blat.

    If you are not using Microsoft Outlook you have to enter the SMTP (email server) information used by your Internet Service Provider (Ex. Rogers, Videotron, etc). For more information regarding your SMTP server, contact your Internet Service Provider.

    If your computer is not connected to the Internet. Copy "ErrorSys.txt" and "ErrorSys.jpg" from the C:Temp folder to a USB portable device, then use a computer connected to the Internet and send the two files as an attachment via email to the HIFIS Support Desk.

    Note: If you have chosen 'Temp folder assigned by Windows' in HIFIS Defaults ⁄ Switches, the two files may be in another location. This is generally: C:Documents and Settings<your user name>Local SettingsTemp but will depend on your operating system set-up.

  • "Publisher could not be verified"

    This is a warning given by your local intranet to notify that the program is not recognized. This warning can be removed by making changes to your 'trusted sites.'

    Note: These instructions are based on Windows XP. There may be differences depending on the version of Windows you are using.

    1. Right click on the HIFIS shortcut and select Properties. Copy the Target location.
    2. Go to your Windows Control Panel, open the Internet Properties and select the Security tab. Click on Local intranet and select the Sites button.
    3. Select 'Advanced.'
    4. Paste the address that was copied from the shortcut and then select the add button. This will create the trusted site.
    5. Log into HIFIS and the error no longer appears.
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