Theme 5: Leveraging DATA and TECHNOLOGY to drive Policy and Practice

There is growing recognition of the value of data and technology in addressing complex problems, including in our responses to homelessness.

While many communities now use Homelessness Management Information Systems (HMIS) to coordinate services, track clients, and measure the impact of service delivery models and community strategies, these practices are not consistent across the country. Further, many service providers collect limited data, while federal, provincial and territorial government data collection is only minimally analyzed.

An increasing amount of data on homeless individuals, including homeless youth, is available across Canada This includes not only working with data gathered from the homelessness sector (Point-in-Time Counts, HIFIS, etc.) but also other forms of administrative data. Deriving maximum value from large data sets requires a cross-cutting approach that considers how to prevent youth homelessness and sustain their exits from homelessness.  MtS will advance this work, linking data (where possible) from homeless information systems and administrative systems (e.g., in health and other social services).

MtS intends to design and implement a vision for a national youth homelessness data strategy to support communities and governments. The goal is to utilize data to generate new and useful knowledge impacting policy and practice, and driving the creation of innovative tools and resources that support communities.

Research sub-themes

5.1 Developing Meaningful and Practical KPIs to Support Data Collection, Management, Analysis and Reporting at the Community and Program Level

Defining best practices for data collection, management, analysis, and reporting can be carried out in parallel with two complementary tasks: 1) developing meaningful and feasible outcome measures (KPIs) to drive service delivery and for communities implementing plans to prevent and end youth homelessness; and 2) developing additional tools and resources to support service delivery, including data dashboards, can help track the activities and outcomes of prevention and housing interventions, thus providing an effective means of communicating progress on key performance indicators.

5.2 Integration and Analysis of Linked Administrative Data

This sub-theme explores the potential for using linked administrative data, independent of intervention studies, to make conclusions about policies or other factors that affect the trajectories of youth experiencing homelessness. This sub-theme explores integrating linked administrative data from federal and provincial databases to data from intervention studies conducted under research themes 1 and 2 – databases that contain information on individuals’ use of the health care, education, criminal justice, and income support systems.

5.3 Estimation and Modeling of the Costs and Economic Impacts of Particular Investments and Interventions

Costs and economic impacts of interventions are of interest to decision-makers. A sound basis for costing the impacts of interventions tested under themes 1 and 2 exists, by combining unit costing for health, social, and justice-related services with existing health care unit cost estimates. Modeling efforts can also be helpful to project effects of interventions on outcomes and costs over a longer time period than intervention studies can offer, identifying important knowledge gaps.

5.4 Using Technology to Support Prevention and Housing Stabilization

We will develop, implement, and assess technology that supports MtS’ mandate to identify effective interventions that prevent and end youth homelessness. Engineering technology such as data analytics platforms will be developed and mobilized to support the research across theme areas, and collect and analyze community-level data. Research under this sub-theme will also explore how technology can be used to enhance access to housing and supports that build life skills.