Actionable Homelessness Data Plan

Thaddeus Gassie, Crisis Response Network

"There is available data on homelessness, but the region does not tie specific, agreed-upon actions to the data. In other words, we don't have a plan of action to respond in X or Y ways when we see X or Y data."

- Thaddeus Gassie, KER fellow 2020

Background

The task of addressing homelessness is complex and relies on many varied stakeholders to coordinate services, using limited resources, in order to make homelessness in the region rare, brief, and nonrecurring. Every region in the U.S. is structured into a Homelessness Continuum of Care, a network with a single goal - to solve homelessness as a region. This network consists of parties who gather information, parties who report findings and data, parties who convene and can make decisions, and parties with the authority to change and shift the way that the players work with each other to end homelessness. Numerous agencies within the continuum deliver services meant to prevent loss of housing, shelter those who are already homeless, and support persons in crisis — connecting them to available resources. And many organizations, committees, workgroups, and coalitions collaborate to identify and organize homeless-solutions. 

However, the covid-19 pandemic provides an example of how unexpected societal crises can impact a region’s ability to respond to a drastic increase in housing and support needs.

Research questions

  • Which homeless data is meaningful to stakeholders in our Continuum of Care?
  • Which homeless data is meaningful according to other best practices?
  • What are the thresholds in the metrics that, when crossed, should flag action?
  • What are the actions that should be taken when the metrics are flagged?
  • What can slow or inhibit a Continuum of Care from being able to take action?
  • What can the final tool look like?

Methods and findings

Gassie aimed to put an actionable tool in the hands of the Maricopa Homelessness Continuum of Care, with the goal of improving the region’s response — in terms of speed, coordination, and consistency — to regional homelessness. He started by meeting with stakeholders involved with the continuum, to gain a better understanding of how it could improve its response to regional homelessness, especially when there are changes in the scale of homelessness. Informants frequently discussed the question of how to move from information to action. There is available data on homelessness, but the region does not tie specific, agreed-upon actions to the data. In other words, there is no plan of action to respond in X or Y ways when presented with X or Y data.

During his fellowship, Gassie worked to design such a plan. By surveying local and out-of-state stakeholders working within this system, he learned more about how homelessness metrics are used to instruct action, what kind of metrics are used to inform action, and what can slow or inhibit action. He also reviewed literature on best-practices and how other Continuums of Care respond to their data to propose an Actionable Homelessness Data Plan.

Partners

Crisis Response Network

  • Ty Rosensteel
  • Hillary Evans
  • Sam Debus
  • TJ Reed
  • Sean Yescalis
  • Sean Hazle
  • Glori Vercruyssen
  • Beth Brady

Arizona State University

  • Patricia Solis, Executive Director, Knowledge Exchange and Resilience
  • Michael Simeone, Assistant Research Professor (FSC), Biosocial Complexity Initiative
  • Dawn Augusta, Clinical Associate Professor, Edson College - Doctor of Nursing Practice

Impact

If adopted, Gassie's data plan may increase the cohesion of the continuum while providing additional dividends at the same time. Having agreed upon metrics and thresholds for action could help speed continuum responses. It may also lead to increased accountability, as entities both inside and outside the continuum would be able to see whether it’s meeting its goals. Additionally, the language and descriptions used to describe efforts in homelessness service provision aren’t always the same, causing a stumbling block for understanding what’s happening and creating hazards when communicating to the public. Gassie’s plan creates an opportunity for focused attention on consistent, agreed-upon language defining the extent of homelessness and what’s being done to address it in our region.

In influencing the way that the Maricopa Homelessness Continuum of Care interacts with data — as cues for specific actions — this project may impact the personal lives of those experiencing homelessness. They may find faster access to resources and housing.

Deliverables

  • A survey meant to gather both opinions and insight from regional stakeholders in the Continuum of Care
  • Documentation of the results of a literature review
  • Documentation meant for distribution to continuum leadership which summarizes the work, effort, and result proposal
  • An sample tool (e.g. dashboard or other report) as a visual aid for what the final tool may look like
  • Documentation to propose next steps, concerns, and other follow-up details