Systems Mapping for Ending Homelessness in Ottawa:
A Coordinated Community Approach
The Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa is undertaking a Systems Mapping initiative to identify the multiple systems components of Ottawa's current housing and homelessness sector in order to better understand the programs, services and structures in place.
The goal of Systems Mapping is to accumulate a data repository of information on our sector (a ‘data map’), held for and by our sector, that can inform an evidence based approach to aligning future policy, program and funding related targets and outcomes specific to Ottawa’s housing and homelessness community needs.
A Systems Mapping exercise can further help to inform the alignment of sector services, improve information sharing, increase systems efficiencies and support an improved care experience for individuals and families within Ottawa’s homelessness serving systems.
Without a clear and agreed upon understanding of the local service delivery landscape, efforts to reduce homelessness risk being one-offs. The risk is also in further failing to fundamentally align affordable and supportive housing, homelessness and community and public agencies around a coordinated prevention and harm reduction approach.
To this end, the Alliance is proposing to work with members and stakeholders to convene a data rich analysis of Ottawa’s homelessness serving sector through an online Systems Mapping survey tool to:
- Identify the various programs and services currently delivered for homeless and at risk groups;
- Classify these according to program types (transitional housing, emergency shelter, drop-in, health outreach, etc.)
- Assess current capacity (number of beds, number of participants served per year, etc.);
- Identify program funders and their expectations;
- Analyze programs' funded (formal) role versus actual operational functioning (i.e. funded to provide transitional housing, but functions as long-term supportive housing in practice);
- Identify points of articulation between programs and public systems (i.e. hospital, jails, etc.);
- Evaluate current data management processes;
- Clarify target populations, referral processes, prioritization and eligibility criteria; and
- Document current practices in the homeless serving sector and assess their fidelity to Housing First principles.
While Systems Mapping is but one step in a much larger Systems Planning process, it will convene and leverage Ottawa housing, homelessness and community stakeholders to inform sector priorities, targets and outcomes aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness, and will further inform future policy, program and funding needs.
The initiative will also support the data driven, evidence based development of Alliance policy, advocacy and lobbying capacity to inform the City of Ottawa’s 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan, City budget consultations, and to advance common community goals and systems alignment.
The Systems Map can bring valuable evidence based information to the homelessness and affordable housing sector in Ottawa, while the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa is well positioned to take the lead on this initiative as a community convenor, driving local engagement and learning.
Next steps include using the findings of the Systems Mapping to identify strategies to improve our community’s response to homelessness and to inform further Systems Planning initiatives.
We can work together to better align Ottawa’s homelessness serving sector, and the Alliance is pleased to be working alongside our members to inform a community-led approach to preventing, reducing and ending homelessness.