San Diego County Supervisors Approve Data Program to Reduce Homelessness

Some homeless sleep on the sidewalks during the day.
Some homeless sleep on the sidewalks during the day.
Some homeless sleep on the sidewalks during the day. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a data analytics policy to help prevent homelessness.

Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher proposed developing a comprehensive integrated data system that allows county employees to evaluate if a person is at risk of becoming homeless and offer support to keep them housed.

The proposal also calls for creating a homeless prevention unit within the Office of Homelessness Solutions to conduct direct outreach to individuals.

Helen Robbins-Meyer, county chief administrative officer, will have 180 days to develop an analytics plan, which will also need board approval.

According to Fletcher’s office, Los Angeles County government in 2020 also approved using predictive analysis to prevent homelessness.

Using data from eight L.A. County agencies, outreach workers focused their attention on people and families at greatest risk of losing their homes, and offered help.

In a statement after the vote, Fletcher said the county will continue to tackle the crisis that exists on the streets, “but we must invest in preventative actions like this one that stops people from becoming unhoused. This new technology will do it.”

Supervisor Joel Anderson said that while participating in a point-in- time count, he learned that for those living on the streets, such a situation “was the new normal.”

“If we can prevent anybody from being on the streets, that is the best value,” Anderson said.

Nora Vargas, board vice chairwoman, said that while the county needs to address other issues surrounding poverty, the data analytics program will help it move forward on preventing homelessness.

During a public comment period, the proposal won support from homeless prevention and social service groups, including the Regional Task Force on the Homeless and Jewish Family Services.

Chris Olsen, chief of staff at JFS, said his agency operates a parking lot for those living in their car and similar groups “are often canaries in the coal mine” on the growing problem.

“We see too many individuals one step away from falling into homelessness,” Olsen said.

Angeli Calinog, public affairs manager with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the data analytics program is a needed investment, because homelessness also harms hard-working families and local businesses.

On Monday, Fletcher and county officials unveiled the analytics policy, along with an app-based tool that helps county employees connect unsheltered people to services.

Barbara Jimenez, community operations officer with the Department of Homeless Solutions, said the county has just started using a new app-based technology developed by RevTech called the HSEC Outreach App. It will let 60 additional county employees — including park rangers and librarians — more effectively connect homeless people with services.

— City News Service