Reporting for CES
Recently, I’ve heard frustrations over the way Coordinated Entry Systems (CES) operate, but when I inquire in regards to “what do your reports say?” I usually get blank stares. Purely anecdotal updates about the effectiveness of homeless systems no longer suffice to assure our trust that our systems are working. We might feel we are fighting an uphill battle with homelessness and the success of our new CES. If your CoC hasn’t committed to reviewing the reporting, you may have no idea or the wrong idea about how your system is working. This affects collaborations and the usefulness of your system design.
I recently read through a Focus Strategies review of a large Coordinated Entry System and was surprised to see it mentioned that data quality was one of the findings. It surprises me because by now, most of us know we can’t make system improvements without first knowing what might need to be improved. That requires a commitment to use the data as it flows through to relevant reporting.
Here are some suggestions we’ve come up with regarding data and the operation of your CES
- Put your data commitment in writing – support the value of data and indicate you have plans to use it in CoC strategic plans, Coordinated Entry Systems or special homeless programs.
- Commit to reviewing relevant reporting at every appropriate work group meeting. By “relevant” we mean information that your committee is able to take action against to improve the program.
- Document your data collection and reporting design; include areas of responsibility, users of the data, mechanisms for iterative improvement around the design of programs.
- Set baselines using the existing federal reports (HIC, PIT AHAR), use these as a placeholder to assess improvements.
- Set simple performance goals and don’t get hung up on reaching them. Goals are a valuable springboard and you’ll be able to adjust those goals as things progress and more information becomes available.
- Keep things simple – a CoC doesn’t need comprehensive dashboards, extensive lists of data points or a think tank of PhD data scientists to determine how things are working.
- Demand data quality. Put it in writing and make it part of the periodic reviews. Check it and make a practice of dealing with irregularities and improvements.
- Rely on local universities and trade/community colleges for help with data compilation and analysis. Look for interns who want to help.
- Define what transparency means to your CoC and your processes. Allow new ideas to develop as stakeholders become confident that their feedback is being considered openly and valued.
- Onboard funders, elected officials and advocates – provide talking points about system progress and pay special attention to areas that are important to them.
- Know that all kinds of unique information will come to light as you begin to review the basic data, things you had not thought possible but that can be used to spur new insights.
Here are some suggested data elements that can indicate how the system might be performing. Most of these can be taken from simple data exports so there is no need to write complex reports to determine the following:
- How many persons have been contacted?
- Number of assessments taken?
- Geographical areas people come from?
- How long have people been outside?
- Who gets lost and where do they get lost?
- What referrals do your providers accept and deny?
- How many persons accessing the system didn’t meet the Homeless or At-Risk definitions?
- How are acuity scores aligning with housing interventions?
- How many placement successes by case manager?
- How many placement successes are resulting from case conferencing?
Best practices and analysis around system coordination are being published more frequently. If your CoC has not identified a way to analyze CES data, it could be missing out on valuable insights because you are unable to compare to more mature systems.
At a recent meeting of the Tech Bay Area Advocates I ran into a former CIO for a large Sonoma County winery. I thought back to 20 years ago when a close friend in the networking world told me that one of the primary reasons for this winery’s enormous success was their commitment to IT infrastructure and reporting.
Your homeless services are only as effective as their supportive infrastructure and we offer that your plans need to include a written commitment to the use of data. Of course this applies to more than Coordinated Entry too so we encourage you to commit, design and measure your results. Don’t make it complicated – just get started!
We’ve created a fun poll to find out who relies on CES reporting and what they may be finding out about their system. If you’d like to participate click here. We’ll post the results in January.