Managing Information – HIFIS Comes to London

One of the challenges we face in addressing homelessness in London, like in many municipalities, is the lack of information sharing across the many agencies involved.  From an administration perspective, this means difficulties in budgeting, in collaborating, and in creating a clear advocacy message.  From a service user perspective, this means having to complete the same intake forms and answer the same questions at every agency you access.  We have moved into a digital age, but our information systems and processes are not particularly advanced.

This concern parallels some of the work I have been doing around health and homelessness in London, and the lack of information sharing that can lead to poor health outcomes.  With this concern eating at me, I was quite pleased to see THIS report from the City of London highlighting that the federal government is going to support our adoption of the HIFIS 3 system (Homeless Individuals and Families Information System).  The system will be utilized for sure by our emergency shelters, and other services will have the opportunity to opt-in.

There is always some skepticism about information collecting and information sharing within social services.  A question many ask is why we need to be collecting personal information on individuals who are simply seeking shelter.  And, those more prone to conspiracies, wonder about the information governments have about us.  Additionally, when it come to sharing information across agencies, people wonder if negative relationships with a staff member at one location will negatively impact care at other agencies.

However, if we keep in mind the goal is to always optimize services to end homelessness, then good information, and information sharing, are a part of the direction in which we need to be heading.

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