Across California, homeless social workers spend part of their day in front of their phones or computer screens entering information about their clients.
This information is essential for tracking people living on the streets and is required by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as a condition of receiving federal funds.
So far, it has had little value in guiding public policy on homelessness or, for that matter, in informing the public. The information was kept in 44 separate databases, each managed by one of 44 federally mandated agencies called continuums of care, which plan and deliver homeless services statewide.
California launched a public website on Wednesday that for the first time combines all 44 databases and publishes statewide baseline statistics that describe homelessness and local efforts to address it. .
It shows, for example, that outreach workers provided services to 280,130 people in the state last year. This far exceeds the estimated total of just over 161,500 people who are homeless on any given night and provides a snapshot of the number of people who are homeless for brief periods during the year and who receive assistance for get back on your feet, but don’t. appear in annual counts taken in January.
The new database, called the Homeless Data Integration System, was created to help policymakers in states see homelessness broadly and to provide an analytical tool to measure the effectiveness of homelessness. individual agencies and their services.
“For the first time, we will have the data and tools to better coordinate services statewide,” said Ali Sutton, deputy secretary for homelessness at the Agency for Business, Services to consumers and housing.
In its early days, the public website provided only limited details. Although he reports that 91,626 homeless people were granted permanent housing in 2020, he cannot break it down further to distinguish between those who got grants or who were reunited with their families.
But it’s coming. Sutton said the website will be updated quarterly with more analytics. Among other things, she said, the state wants to know what happens to the homeless who are given permanent housing.
“What is launched today is the start,” she said.