Five Reflections from the Fall NHSDC Conference

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By Amy Olsen-Highness and Emily Salvaterra

In mid-October, we had the honor of representing ICA Minnesota at the National Human Services Data Consortium (NHSDC) conference in Austin, TX. This conference (held twice a year in the spring and fall) draws HMIS lead agency staff, CoC leadership, and HMIS users from across the country. Generally, everyone there is grappling with how to use HMIS data to inform and drive decision-making in the homeless response system. We learned so much and overall would strongly recommend this conference to anyone interested in using data more effectively. Here are some of our takeaways:

  • We gave a presentation about creating and utilizing a CES Dashboard to about 130 people. In that room, maybe 10 people already had a dashboard up and running. Examining and learning from CES data is clearly still very new to everyone and we are all so hungry for information. We are new to this too, but it was still so valuable to share what we have done so far and spurred so many conversations throughout the whole conference.
  • It’s easy to lose perspective when you’re deep in your own work and it feels like you must be far behind everyone else. In reality, ALL the conference attendees were struggling with their own data questions and systems issues – there is a lot of common ground.
  • The scope of investment in the homelessness response system across the country is quite varied. Some communities are staffed by two people who gave up on trying to answer the phone months ago, while others are getting large corporate funding to implement sophisticated dashboards. Everyone is so committed, and those with more are absolutely willing to share what they have learned.
  • ICA is full of resources we can leverage. Since ICA manages HMIS implementations across 12 states, we don’t get to actually meet/see each other all that often. While we have regular online contact, connecting with our colleagues in other states was a great reminder of all the knowledge we have right at our fingertips.
  • This conference is a great opportunity to hear from HUD, and to make sure HUD hears from you! Representatives from HUD presented their vision for the future of HMIS, and listened to end users share their challenges and successes with systems. We found value in both the high-level thinking and the on-the ground reality check the conference provided.

Lucky for us, the next NHSDC conference will be right here in Minnesota
(Minneapolis, to be exact), April 6-8, 2020!! Stay tuned for more information about this and bookmark https://nhsdc.org/ now. We would love to have a strong Minnesota turnout for this conference that is rarely in our own backyard.