As explained by Kaite, a systems planning approach is one that analyzes, plans and designs an integrated system with defined services that, consequentially, works towards a common end. The process must be data-driven, use system coordination, and focus on prevention of homelessness first. To better explain its application in our context, we will look at each factor below.
Currently, there are some prominent gaps in data-gathering. The most common data-collection system on homelessness in Canada is point-in-time data, which is volunteer driven, eye-witness based counts of people experiencing homelessness on any given night. As one might assume, most data regarding people experiencing homelessness comes from shelters, which is not all-encompassing.
Ottawa needs an integrated governance structure with written policies and protocols that have common information across the board. A coordinated governance structure is something that the case-study cities, mentioned previously (Waterloo and Medicine Hat), needed to reach functional-zero and this is something that Ottawa could do quickly, with our strong and functional governing bodies.
There need to be systems in place that prevent homelessness immediately when someone is displaced (for example, that 18-year-old being discharged on their birthday). It is not out of reach to have people be connected to supports and services within 1-10 days of being in a position to enter homelessness.
If Ottawa were to follow Medicine Hat or Waterloo Region and assert, even a small amount, of system disruption, we could make a tremendous stride toward, and even achieve, functional zero homelessness.