A Comparable Database System designed with and for Victim Service Providers, Advocates, and Security Professionals.
is a “comparable database system” developed by The Partnership Center, Ltd. (PCL) specifically for victim service providers. It is configured to collect information required for: HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG), as well as DOJ’s Violence Against Women Act (VAWA-STOP) and Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), and HHS’s Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA). Thyme meets all requirements as a comparable database for the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) as required by HUD and generates the reports in an accurate CSV format as specified by HUD. Thyme also enables case workers/advocates to record client activity and case plans and includes tools to support their work.
EachThyme license includes not only the Thyme CDS software, but custom set-up, training, on-going support, and reports. PCL will work with the agency to access a low/no cost secure Microsoft Azure software package. If an agency opts not to use the Microsoft Azure server, they may also use Thyme within their internal IT infrastructure (i.e. on a server or machine physically housed within their agency).
Read more about the specifics of Thyme:
The Thyme system is designed to be fully compliant with the Violence Against Women Act requirements as a highly secure web-based system. Each Victim Service Provider agency has a separate, private, and secure instance of the software stored in its own fully encrypted server provided through Microsoft’s Azure or within their internal IT infrastructure (i.e. on a server or machine physically housed within their agency walls). Data stored in Thyme on Azure is never shared with anyone outside the agency and the agency holds the only access keys. PCL was assisted in the design and development of the privacy and security function on hardware and software by both legal and technical experts, along with other privacy/security resource partners from across the country.
An additional partnership with Sightline Security provides agencies an opportunity to assess, prioritize, and improve their cybersecurity agency-wide.
Microsoft Azure cloud server storage
For agencies that opt to store their database in a virtual server, the Azure cloud server is provided at low or no cost to qualified non-profits via a partnership with Microsoft’s Technology for Social Impact project and their longstanding commitment to non-profits. Each agency’s Thyme instance in Azure includes a virtual server running their Thyme web application and a preconfigured instance of the Thyme database running on a secure system using Transparent Data Encryption with BYOK (Bring Your Own Key). Encryption and decryption are performed real-time as data is written and read from the database. The encryption/decryption keys are stored inside the database, but those keys are also encrypted using a second key which is stored in the customer’s Azure Key Vault, separate from the database. Because the keys are stored in the customer’s Key Vault separate from the database, even if someone were to steal a copy of the encrypted database, they would be unable to access the contents without the customer’s separate keys. Additionally, Azure Key Vault is designed so that Microsoft does not see or extract customers’ data.
The database firewall protects access to the database from other computers on the internet, and the virtual server firewall protects access to the customer’s Thyme server running the Thyme website. If requested by agencies, the firewall could be configured to restrict access to the Thyme website, which would permit users to log into their Thyme site only when they are at the office.
An additional, distinct layer of at-rest security is provided by using Bitlocker to encrypt all the system files and data on the virtual server, so that even if a malicious actor copied the data or stole the hardware containing the server, any data would be unreadable.
PCL’s Thyme Manager assists agencies with the non-profit certification process through Microsoft to leverage $3,500 in annual credits. These credits cover the cost of the agency’s server. Along with the credits, Microsoft also provides $1,500 of Azure Active Directory Premium, which includes Office 365, email, and Multi Factor Authentication to support the agency’s overall security and productivity. Once the server is configured and equipped with the agency’s instance of Thyme, PCL loses all access to the server and database and the agency has exclusive control.
Thyme supports data collection for the following project types:
- Emergency Shelter
- Transitional Housing
- Rapid Re-Housing
- Permanent Supportive Housing
- HUD specific Service Only Projects
- Other Service Projects
- Street Outreach
- Hotline Project
- Education/Prevention Project is also under development
Thyme is built using a “project-based model” which enables clients to be entered and exited seamlessly from one project to another, supporting accurate information on outcomes obtained by clients in each project. Thyme’s simple and user-friendly wizards guide users through various stages, including project intake, annual assessment and exit, to support collection of required information at the right stage without workers struggling to figure out what to complete. Thyme wizards are always maintained to HMIS Data Standard requirements.
Thyme also identifies which of the agency’s federal funding programs require the collection of each data element through a colored star system, so there is no question when data is required for reporting.
Thyme was designed not only as a database to store information needed by funders but is complete with tools designed, tested, and used by advocates and case managers to develop case plans, conduct client housing checklists, support budgeting, messaging, and encounter note taking.
Thyme is accessible to users through a secure website available only to the approved users of Thyme at the Agency. Access is password protected and PIN enabled. Each agency may have as many users as require access. There is no “per-user” fee. Thyme supports the theory that privacy and security should not be compromised by persons sharing passwords and so it is not cost prohibitive for agencies to enroll all persons who need access to Thyme with their own password and logon credentials.
Thyme supports a variety of user levels from supervisor to read-only. Each user has their own user level, by project. These user levels enable and/or restrict access (reading and writing) to client data in different projects of the organization, so only those persons in the “circle of knowledge” regarding the victim have access to data. User levels are set by the agency and may be changed as needed if workers change positions within the agency.
Project partnerships enable client information to be viewed across projects or restricted depending on the agency’s needs and client confidentiality.
A variety of user training experiences are provided as part of the initial set-up process for Thyme. A start-up video conference training is included in the set-up fee to provide agency-specific and project-specific training for users. Thyme guidebooks, tip sheets, and video training are also available and are updated regularly. Ongoing training is also available for agency users at nominal fees including new user orientation, understanding reporting, train-the-trainer, advanced data reporting, etc. On-site training is available for an additional fee when multiple organizations in one area/region or state elect to use Thyme.
Thyme supports the agency’s ability to accurately report on the clients it serves, and the outcomes achieved. Thyme generates accurate reporting for all HUD Continuum of Care and Emergency Shelter Grant programs critical for maintaining funding and measuring performance.
PCL programmers have extensive experience in HUD’s Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grant program and HMIS reporting. Reports include the required HUD CSV reporting output, updated as required and free of charge, as well as on-screen viewable, printable, and detailed versions of the reports. Reporting for VOCA, VAWA STOP grant, and FVPSA are also standard in the system.
Thyme also comes complete with a variety of standard reports needed by an agency for program and agency management. Reports range from active client lists, to client level demographic reporting, to data quality reports. Custom reports can be ordered in addition to the standard reports and may be programmed for a single agency’s use or a statewide or regional reporting need. Charges for custom reports are based on the size and complexity of the report and are quoted on a “not-to-exceed” cost, so the agency always knows the maximum fee for any order.
Additionally, Thyme supports the ability to generate custom reports through a special reporting tool called Flexo. On-line training classes enable users to learn how to use the Flexo reporting system and receive certification that they were trained and “passed” the course.
Agencies may opt to house their Thyme database on a Microsoft Azure server as configured by PCL specifically for Thyme. PCL assists the non-profit agency in securing a renewable Microsoft Credit and purchasing the server, so in most instances Azure is completely free of charge.
Agencies that opt to house their Thyme database within their internal IT infrastructure will need a physical machine with server class hardware with a minimum 16GB RAM, 3.0GHz 4 core processor and 1TB drive space. The server must be able to host a virtual machine with a current version of MS Windows Server and MS SQL Server Standard licensed for the correct number of users. The physical server should have a minimum of 8GB RAM, 2 processor cores, and 500GB of disk space for use exclusively by the Thyme virtual server, which is provided by PCL.
Agencies need to set aside dedicated time to work with PCL’s Thyme Manager and Metadata Specialist to provide information about each project they want included in Thyme. Agency preparedness and participation in the project set-up will ensure all the data the agency needs will be configured correctly in their Thyme system.
Agencies must identify at least one Thyme Specialist to be trained to manage the administration portion of Thyme for the agency once it is deployed to their server. This person is also responsible for accepting Thyme updates in the server. The Thyme Specialist is able to add/delete users, set user levels, update option lists for case manager names, county names, and grants used. They may also post system messages and review data entry errors across the agency. The Thyme Specialist will have the ability to customize data collection in Thyme to include fields which the agency requires for their own internal data collection needs or the requirement of other funders.