Connecting state and local government leaders
To target services and funds aimed at reducing and preventing homelessness, California’s data sharing platform allows state and local leaders to coordinate services, policies and programs.
To support data-driven grant applications and track progress toward resolving homelessness, the California Interagency Council of Homelessness (Cal ICH) created a platform that makes homeless service-related information available to the public and participating continuums of care (COC).
The California Homeless Data Integration System (HDIS) provides a cloud-based data warehouse for the states’ 44 COC organizations to share information on populations experiencing homelessness, including the services they receive and demographic details such as a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, disabling conditions and whether they are a veteran or have a family.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the 2022 point-in-time count showed that 30% of all people experiencing homelessness in the country were in California.
Cal ICH awards homelessness-targeted grants to cities, counties and COCs and created the browser-based platform in 2021. It includes a public-facing interface and an internal one that only COCs and certain partners such as government leaders may access.
COCs are already required to submit data to HUD’s homeless management information system (HMIS), and this process creates silos among COC networks and may result in duplicative reports, said Deputy Secretary of Homelessness Dhakshike Wickrema at California’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. BCSH co-chairs Cal ICH with the Health and Human Services Agency.
“Now with HDIS, you’re seeing that [data] rolled up to the state level,” she said. “You're also able to use the data to think through how services are being provided on the ground, in different jurisdictions or even statewide, to get a sense of what the investment is providing and what the results of the investments are.”
HDIS lets users create data reports, visualizations and dashboards to track the social services individuals receive such as housing or food provisions and offers performance metrics of grant-supported efforts to reduce and prevent homelessness, Wickrema said.
HDIS pulls local HMIS data from COCs on a quarterly basis through a secure file transfer system, which undergoes a data cleansing process to verify, crossmatch and deduplicate information. HDIS enables users to “[harness] the power of 44 COCs and their data to show patterns and trends,” Wickrema said.
For instance, a 2021 Cal ICH report showed that Black, indigenous and other populations including people of color disproportionately comprise the number of individuals without a home. Also, the report found nearly 380,000 of 571,246 individuals served by programs reporting to HDIS were newly experiencing homelessness. Wickrema said these factors indicate a need for government to consider efforts that prevent homelessness such as employment or housing assistance.
“This is longitudinal data that we keep building on. [HDIS] is providing us different ways to set baselines and measure people’s performance at the local level … and look at state-level aggregates of that data,” Wickrema said.