too long ago, San Francisco's homeless tracking system
consisted of a pile of papers in cardboard boxes. Now, the
city is launching a high-tech platform to identify every
homeless resident and his or her level of need.
launch represents a growing effort, led by newly-elected
Mayor London Breed, to crack down on the city's visible
homeless crisis. San Francisco is one of the top-ranking cities
for homelessness in the country, with anestimated homeless
population of 7,500.
new system intends to track the health, housing, jail, and
counseling history of every homeless person in the city.
It's a far cry from the old method, which spanned 15
different databases across multiple agencies. This allowed
homeless residents to slip through the cracks, with people
who might be registered in one system left out of others.
new solution — known as ONE System (Online Navigation and
Entry System) — aggregates this data into a single platform.
As part of the test process, the city solicited feedback
from volunteer consultants at Google and other tech
companies. The final product allows homeless outreach
professionals to log in to an app and view the state of
homelessness in the city in real time. But first, it
requires individuals to be registered at shelters or one of
the city's two walk-in centers, which are run by Episcopal
registration, homeless residents are asked 17 questions that
relate to their history of care and future needs. This helps
determine which residents are in dire need of housing, and
which can have their concerns met relatively quickly. By
next year, the database will have collected enough names to
begin the housing placement process for individual
of late last year, the system has already begun to track
homeless families throughout the city. According to Jeff
Kositsky, the head of the city's Department of Homelessness
and Supportive Housing, the platform has slashed wait times
for families at local shelters from one week to just two
days. "I know it's going to make a difference," he t old
The San Francisco Chronicle. "Maybe not right away,
but it will happen."
the systems in other cities are any indication, Kositsky
could be right. In Salt Lake City, where a program records
every time a homeless person receives shelter, counseling,
or another service, the city managed to reduce
chronic homelessness by 91% in a
single decade. That's a big challenge for San Francisco, but
one the city may now be more equipped to handle.