OpenNorth recently had the privilege of delivering a day-long workshop in Halifax on effective data management practices to an engaged group of individuals who work in the field of homelessness service provision (such as homeless shelters and outreach centres). OpenNorth’s workshop was a part of a greater two-day long workshop organized by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to guide homelessness service providers in implementing the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS) version 4 in the Atlantic Region. Developed by ESDC, HIFIS 4 is used by homelessness service providers across Canada to perform case management, track activities within their organisations, and collect information on homelessness in their communities.
OpenNorth’s role as an intermediary, expertise in data sharing, as well as data standards development and maintenance, guided its approach to delivering this workshop. Participants learned about the potential benefits of sharing information within their communities, such as detection of community-wide trends and improved service coordination. Due to the sensitivity of personal information on homeless individuals, relevant risks and drawbacks to data sharing were also discussed. In addition, participants learned about approaches to data standardization. OpenNorth highlighted the importance of adopting standards for data documentation and data entry when attempting to share data between organizations.
The field of homeless service provision exists in a complicated ecosystem driven by a diverse range of stakeholders. From front-of-the-line workers who book clients in and out of shelters to government analysts who track trends in socioeconomic issues across the country, data is a key component of many activities within this field. Effective data management practices are critical in ensuring that data can meet its purpose and be used to its full potential. We look forward to building on this work and appreciate the opportunity to work with the Government of Canada and its partners.