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Building a stronger community with open data

October 19, 2021
Feature Stories

The City of Ottawa is making data about the temporary emergency accommodations system publicly accessible. This data provides important insights about people experiencing homelessness in Ottawa and will support community planning and improve service delivery.

Read on to learn more about the innovative tools that are bringing this data to life and how it can be used to build a stronger city.

An image of someone typing on a laptop

Making data accessible

The Temporary Emergency Accommodations Open Data Project, which launched in September, makes data easy to access and available to anyone in our community through datasets and an interactive dashboard.

Datasets are updated and published on Open Ottawa, the City’s open data website, and include detailed information about City-funded shelters, transitional housing programs and overflow sites, like hotels, motels and post-secondary institutions.

Before the project launched, temporary emergency accommodations data was only shared once per year. Now, the City reviews and reports on this data every month.

“Instead of looking back, we can now monitor and quickly respond to emerging trends in the data,” said Tim Aubry, a professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa and longtime collaborator on City data projects related to homelessness. “Organizations in our community can now compare data, see if there are changes in who they’re serving and see outcomes.”

If you aren’t used to interpreting data, the new Temporary Emergency Accommodations Dashboard presents the datasets in an intuitive format. From the dashboard you can see visualizations of the data, easily filter it by year and category and access helpful descriptions of what you’re seeing. Here is an example of what the dashboard looks like:

A screenshot of a dashboard that displays data and bar graphs about temporary emergency accommodation services for all clients.

Responding to community needs with data

The datasets and dashboard are important tools that will make it easier to collaborate with the wider emergency shelter sector and empower the community to make decisions informed by data.

“Data informed decision-making helps our community respond in ways that are going to be most efficient and effective,” said professor Aubry. “For example, if the data showed that a certain population had increased lengths of stays in shelters, that would tell us that we should be trying to respond to that right away.”

Professor Aubry also believes that this data is not just important for planning purposes, but also for public accountability. Partners, the community and funders can use the datasets and dashboard to see the City’s progress towards the goals outlined in the 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan, which was recently updated in 2020 with new data-related objectives.

Pushing the open data envelope

This initiative expands on the City’s existing open government practices and position as a leader in transparency and innovation. By being open, the City can better connect with residents and increase the number and diversity of people participating in conversations and local decisions.

Since the City launched its open data initiative in 2010, it has steadily added to its open data catalogue which today features almost 400 datasets.

The City of Ottawa recently placed second out of all North American cities in PSD Citywide’s Open Cities Index. The index ranks cities based on the data they openly share with the public.

Open data is part of Ottawa’s Smart City 2.0 Strategy and our commitment to making our operations and information more open and responsive to residents.

Ready to take a deep dive into data? Visit Open Ottawa and the Temporary Emergency Accommodations Dashboard for more information.

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