A Love/Hate Relationship with Data

Posted by: Becca Smith Hill

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Data.

As St. Lawrence Place and Trinity Housing become a best practice in helping homeless families gain independence, we are also working towards gathering the most accurate data possible to build our case programs such as ours work.

Funders want it. But people like me hate it.

Data doesn’t capture the mother who walked in last week and showed me the picture on her cell phone of the house she closed on that morning.  She wanted me to see the front porch and bamboo floors. She wanted to describe the sound her bare feet made as she walked across those floors, and the noises she heard when she opened the bedroom windows.

Data doesn’t capture the look on the child’s face when the volunteer who works with her each week gives praise for remembering homework worksheets, and then gives even more praise for getting the answers right on the worksheet. A data report probably doesn’t have a place to report the sigh of relief when she finally gets the words right when they are called out, especially the really tricky one.

And data doesn’t capture when my program team decides to do our “Lunch and Learn” life skill programs on Tuesdays instead of Mondays, because more residents are able to attend and the room fills…and the team is energized while the residents are learning. A report doesn’t capture the decision to move away from the stale speaker-led programs to more interactive, hands on approaches that allow our families to walk away with a complete project such as a cover letter or actual resume.

Or does it?

In 2014, 95% of our families moved on to stable, permanent housing.  53% increased their income while with us, and others maintained their income or went to school.  86% of our school-aged children maintained or improved their literacy levels over our 10-week summer camp.  And 51 families with 89 children called St. Lawrence Place home while on their journey to self-sufficiency.

Data.  Might be a good thing after all.