Nearly All of California’s Continuums of Care Will Use An App for Mobile Devices to Complete Their 2022 Unsheltered Homeless Count
CoCs are using technology to transform
homeless count data collection
CoCs can shape homeless count data into dynamic
local databases over the coming years through the use
of other technology tools for data integration and analytics
Forty-two (42) of California’s 44 Continuums of Care (CoCs) will conduct a 2022 unsheltered homeless count. Forty (40) of the 42 CoCs will use an App for mobile devices to conduct their Point-in-Time (PIT) unsheltered count according to survey results collected in December, which are shown in Table 1 below.
Note: HUD requires counts “to be conducted within the last 10 days of January.” However, HUD will grant an exception to CoCs to conduct the unsheltered count “within the last 10 days of February” for “good cause,” which includes reasons that “HUD deems would have a negative impact on the accuracy and completeness of a CoC’s count” (see bottom of page 34 and top of page 35 in HIC/PIT Count Data Collection Notice. Pandemic related reasons are deemed “good cause.” As recently as January 10, HUD stated that it does not plan on cancelling the 2022 count.
Technology is Transforming Homeless Count Data Collection
The use of an App for mobile devices to complete the count by so many CoCs is a dramatic shift from the previous use of paper surveys. Counters install an App on their mobile device and download a customized pre-loaded count instrument to complete an observation-based count or a pre-loaded survey instrument to complete a survey-based count. Counters submit their completed instruments electronically. Location data of persons experiencing homelessness is automatically captured. Counters are provided virtual and/or onsite training concerning the usage of the App and how to complete the count or survey instrument prior to counts. Count administrators can monitor the count in real-time and readily visualize the uploaded data and analyze the results through Graphic Information Systems (GIS) technology.
Range and Use of Current Apps
The range of Apps, and the number of CoCs using each App, are shown in the following chart.
Other includes four CoCs who will customize another form.
By the End of This Decade
By the end of this decade, if CoCs continue to develop their use of an App to complete their homeless counts, homeless count data will move well beyond a seemingly static local database used to report to HUD total counts of unsheltered persons, sheltered persons, and various subpopulations and their basic demographic information, which includes gender, race, ethnicity, and age.
Homeless count data can become a dynamic local data base over the coming years by providing a constant flow of information that can be updated annually or biennially. HUD requires CoCs to complete a sheltered count annually and an unsheltered count at least biennially. Approximately half of California’s CoCs complete an unsheltered count annually.
Up to 44 homeless count databases can be stored and accessed electronically by 44 CoCs that geographically cover the entire state. There are several ways that these data bases can become dynamic.
Help Connect Isolated Data Sources
Local homeless count databases can help connect isolated data sources maintained by public and private departments and agencies that provide services to persons experiencing homelessness, such as corrections, education, health, and mental health service providers. De-identified Homeless count data can also be integrated into de-identified public and private data sources to gain insights into homelessness data that was previously isolated, disconnected, and collectively out of reach.
Help Enable Data Analytics Unlike Ever Before
CoCs can enrich local homeless count databases by including in their homeless count surveys locally crafted questions that would further the integration of de-identified public and private data sources. Locally crafted questions can also boost the insights into the encounters and outcomes of a person’s homelessness experiences across service systems of care and help enable data analytics like never before.
Help Enhance Other HUD Required Data Sources
The more and more CoCs develop their use of an app to complete their homeless counts, the more and more count data can be analyzed alongside other electronic homeless data sources required by HUD. Such sources include Coordinated Entry Systems, Housing Inventory Counts, and Homeless Management Information Systems. Another source of data, By-Name Lists, is encouraged by HUD and should also be taken into account. All of the data from these sources can flow into a data warehouse designed to create spreadsheets from a wide range of relational databases for queries and analysis.
Analyzing these data sources, literally side-by-side, will also boost the insights into the encounters and outcomes of local persons experiencing homelessness across jurisdictional service systems of care and also help enable data analytics like never before.
Analyzing these data sources through a technological data platform integrated with GIS technology can enhance the ability of CoCs to identify trends or emerging needs, measure internal performance goals, and make data-driven decisions to inform local planning and policy strategies. Data sources not yet integrated into a technological data platform can boost predictive analytics once integrated.
Local coroner office data is one not yet integrated source. This data source includes the location of death for persons who die while homeless, which can be analyzed side by side with homeless count data, other data sources noted above, and with GIS to predict who and in what the cities and zip codes where thousands of people will die homeless each year and how life saving measures can be taken.
Advance California’s Statewide Repository of Common Homelessness Data
By the end of this decade, if CoCs continue to develop their use and customization of an App to complete their homeless counts, homeless count data will increasingly become dynamic local repositories of data. These data repositories can provide a constant flow of information that can be updated annually or biennially.
Up to 44 homeless count databases can be stored and accessed electronically by 44 CoCs that geographically cover the entire state. All 44 CoCs have a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) that is stored and accessed electronically. HMIS includes client-level data and data regarding the provision of housing and services to homeless households and persons at risk of homelessness.
All 44 CoCs contribute data to the State’s Homeless Data Integration System (HDIS), which is a statewide data warehouse. As noted on its website, the “Integration of these data into HDIS establishes California’s first statewide repository of common homelessness data and streamlines information and analysis by combining information from 44 separate systems into one single point of access.”
By the end of this decade, perhaps all 44 homeless count databases can be integrated into a statewide repository that would combine the data bases into one single point of access that could help inform planning, policy, and funding decisions to further the progress towards solving local homelessness and across California.
The following table shows the results of a survey sent to CoCs by Urban Initiatives.
The table notes that 42 of 44 CoCs will conduct an unsheltered count in January 2022 and that 40 of the 42 CoCs will use an App for mobile devices.