SNAPS has published a new Strategy to Improve Data and Performance, which lays out a vision for optimal data systems and data usage. The release of this Strategy coincides with efforts by federal and national partners to obtain more accurate information about the scale and scope of homelessness in our nation. These efforts include getting better estimates on the scale and scope of youth homelessness; using data to better define rural homelessness; and launching the Longitudinal System Analysis (LSA) which opens up greater reporting opportunities.
The SNAPS Strategy supports communities to base resource and policy decisions on outcomes and performance. We encourage communities get familiar with this Strategy, as it will guide our data-oriented efforts with Continuums of Care (CoCs) over the next several years. It indicates the key markers and characteristics of a successful data-driven system, which CoCs can use to set their own improvement goals. We understand that these goals are ambitious, and we are committed to providing the resources, support and guidance necessary for CoCs to progress toward the goal of using data in a meaningful way.
The SNAPS Strategy sets out three overarching goals for itself and communities:
Communities use their data to optimize systems of care through making ongoing system performance improvements and determining optimal resource allocation;
Communities operate data systems that allow for accurate, comprehensive, and timely data collection, usage and reporting; and
Federal government coordinates to receive and use data to make informed decisions in coordination with other data sets, across and within agencies.
These goals represent three distinct capacities that are needed to understand and develop solutions to end homelessness. The first focuses on ensuring that local communities have the staff capacity, governance, and practices in place to use data to drive local planning and performance efforts. Goal two encourages communities to improve data quality efforts so that their data accurately reflects the full scale of homelessness in their community. Goal three is a charge to the federal government to use data to inform coordination and decision-making efforts necessary to achieve the goals of the Federal Strategic Plan, Home, Together.
Some CoCs may review the Strategy and feel concern that they have not already achieved Goals 1 and 2, or that the goals feel insurmountable. SNAPS views these goals as a 3-5-year improvement effort and understands that communities need assistance and support to make these improvements. Over the next few years, SNAPS will be providing more targeted Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) guidance, HMIS and data-related technical assistance (TA), and funding to achieve these goals.
Towards that end, HUD and its federal partners are providing tools and products to help support local efforts to implement the Strategy. Among the resources is a recently closed HMIS NOFA targeted to improve HMIS structural and staffing capacity, which will provide a total of $5 million in funding to help selected CoCs improve their HMIS implementation. In the coming months, be on the lookout for new and soon-to-be-released data resources and guidance, including:
Learning opportunities at national conferences, meetings, and trainings
HMIS Lead Monitoring Toolkit for CoC leadership
HMIS Solution Provider Monitoring Toolkit for HMIS System Administrators
SNAPS In Focus messages to share ideas about and opportunities to use and improve data
There are also several existing resources that CoCs are encouraged to leverage immediately to help make progress towards the Strategy’s goals. HUD’s HMIS Budgeting and Staffing Toolkit is a great resource to better understand the current capacity of their HMIS implementation (Goal 2). The CoC Data Quality Brief further defines what HUD means by data quality, including expectations around timeliness and accuracy (Goal 2). Lastly, HUD’s System Performance Improvement Briefs outline the fundamentals of using data to inform local planning and resource allocation efforts (Goal 1).
We encourage your CoC leadership and HMIS Lead agency staff to identify how the goals in this document compare with your CoC’s existing efforts to enhance local data. In doing so, communities can better understand their status across each of the Strategy characteristics and set local targets that align with the Strategy.
We appreciate all the work underway to use and improve data and look forward to working closely with CoCs on incorporating the Data Strategy into your existing efforts.