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Family Homelessness INNformation Series: Using data to improve care for families experiencing homelessness

Family Homelessness INNformation Series: Research and Data

Interview with Anthony Eagle on data management.

Anthony Eagle is the Data & Process Analyst at Inn from the Cold. In his role, he works with data collected in our shelter and housing programs. Anthony manages all the client and program data at the Inn and summarizes it to ensure we are maintaining positive outcomes in our work. As Alberta’s only street-level no barrier-access Emergency Family Shelter, data management is a critical part of our work as it informs and measures the impact and success of our programs, while also helping us identify gaps and demand for resources to better serve vulnerable families. [1] The data Anthony analyzes and compiles is a powerful story-telling tool as well as a driver of our strategic directions. It allows us to recognize trends in family homelessness and to identify and implement the most appropriate actions to address individual and sector needs. The data also acts as a powerful tool that allows us to inform stakeholders,  donors, all levels of government, the community-at-large and the media on our work, the status of child and family homelessness in Calgary, the impact of their donations and funds as well as our work to build a community where no child or family is homeless.

Read his perspective on data management at the Inn and how we can improve practices to provide better care for families experiencing homelessness below.

Q: In your opinion, what can data management do for Inn from the Cold?

Anthony Eagle (AE): Data management helps our organization address immediate and long-term needs of the children and families we serve,  staff, volunteers, and funders and donors. It ensures we have accurate information on the needs of the people we are serving, the impact we are having on their lives, and how we are using the donations we receive.

Q: How does data processing and data management help families who stay at the Inn?

AE: With accurate and accessible data we can implement evidence-based practices. It provides a deeper understanding of the needs of the families we see in our programs and allows us to leverage limited resources with maximum efficiency. Proper data leads to proper evaluation which ensures no time, effort, or resource goes to waste.

Q: How does it move the mission of the Inn forward?

AE: When we fully understand the barriers to independence that homeless children and families experience, we are better equipped to eliminate those barriers. Data analysis allows us to help families who are struggling by providing us a clear picture of what is missing or is needed  to help them move forward. Through  the data we can work more closely with families and their case managers to support them in making  informed decisions.

Q: Do you see current gaps in data and research being conducted on family homelessness?

AE: There is significant research on other forms of homelessness such as singles or youth, and while there are some similarities and connections across all types of homelessness, there are many differences that need to be better understood. Homelessness is a complex and very broad issue, it’s important that we recognize the different forms of homelessness in our society and what systemic shortcomings led them to crisis. Because the emphasis has been on high acuity and chronicity, we have a clearer picture of singles and youth homelessness than children and families.

Q: How could these gaps be filled and processes be improved?

AE: Some of these gaps in research can be filled by more agencies being data driven and sharing as much information as they can between agencies, respecting of course the privacy of the individuals and families.  We also need to continue to increase awareness of family homelessness to keep conversations happening around this important issue. As more people ask questions, more people will go looking for answers. Child and family homelessness has been increasing and we as a community and a society need to be better equipped to address it.

Q: In your opinion, what stories does the data tell us about families who stay in our shelter and housing programs?

AE: Data helps us tell a more powerful story about child and family homelessness. It can tell us what led to a family’s arrival in our programs as well as help us track the changes they have seen in their lives while they have stayed with us. Those changes can be large or small from connecting to community resources, learning a new parenting approach, reuniting families, and finding housing. Without proper data collection these stories are forgotten.

Q: Lastly, how can someone interested in this field of work get involved?

AE: If you’re like me you stumble into it. I do know data is increasingly sought after in every field from social services to sports and there are many different approaches to take. Whether your skills are in software development, mathematics, analysis, evaluation, etc. there are multiple ways to get involved with data depending on your interests and abilities.

Thank you Anthony!

Interested in learning more? Here are some great resources:

Watch videos from Episode 2, available now! Interview with Abe Brown, Executive Director, Inn from the Cold HERE. Interview with Kevin McNichol, VP Strategy, Calgary Homeless Foundation HERE. Interview with Dr. Katrina Milaney from the Cummings School of Medicine at the University of Calgary available HERE.

Watch our whole Family Homelessness INNformation Series on our YouTube Channel HERE.

If you missed it, our other blogs from the series are available HERE.

[1] All data used by Inn from the Cold respects the anonymity of the individuals we serve. Each individual is protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP Act).