Unleashing the power of data to move more families out of homelessness

Published: March 3, 2016

Enhanced data analytics help us understand the needs of families facing homelessness—and allow us to advocate more effectively on their behalf.

Michelangelo sculptureEvery block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.

If sculpture can be thought of as a process of discovery, the same might be said of the role data plays in our lives and in our work.

Whether it’s the real-time traffic app on your smartphone or the fitness-tracking device on your wrist, data drives just about everything these days. In today’s complex world, data is used to solve a variety of problems, small and big.

So why not let data drive decisions and inform solutions on family homelessness, too?

“Without data, it’s very hard to innovate,” said Kollin Min, Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “True innovation can only occur in an environment where we have reliable, consistent information about what’s working and what’s not. That’s why we need to make sure we gather good data and use it to make solid decisions moving forward.”

Pierce Co. staff participating in a data & storytelling workshopPierce Co. staff participating in a data & storytelling workshop

In other words, the more we understand about family homelessness, the better prepared we are to address it. This is the core idea behind the Data-Driven Culture Initiative that Building Changes is leading with partners from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, and the Gates Foundation.

By leveraging more impact from data that they already collect—such as through the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)—counties will be able to more effectively serve families that are homeless or struggling to remain housed.

“HMIS is our block of stone, and inside of it there are insights, ideas and new innovations waiting to be discovered,” said Juan Sanchez, Senior Program Officer at Gates. “Through this initiative the counties will chisel away at the data and extract value, so they can tell a more informed and compelling story about family homelessness.”

The initiative is designed to create an atmosphere within counties where decision-makers crave the answers that modern data analytics can provide. The bottom-line goal is to have a data-driven culture inform and influence every practice, policy and funding decision related to family homelessness—now, and into the future.

“Data is the fuel for asking questions, discovering answers and driving change,” said Helen Howell, Building Changes Executive Director. “The Data-Driven Culture Initiative fosters a continuous process of learning, allowing us all to become more effective advocates on behalf of families experiencing homelessness.”

2016 DDCIstory textbox

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