2023 National Association of Counties Achievement Award Winner
SMC HOME (Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement) was granted a 2023 Achievement Award by the National Association of Counties. More information about the award can be found at https://www.naco.org/blog/announcing-2023-achievement-award-winners
The County of San Mateo developed a GIS solution to optimize homeless outreach operations by transforming the way non-emergency reports and responses related to homelessness are documented and processed, streamlining the workflow, and providing a centralized data repository and efficient reporting tools.
SMC HOME was developed through a collaborative effort between the GIS team in the Information Services Department and the program manager of the Center on Homelessness in the Human Services Agency. The program utilizes mobile-friendly forms to collect data in the field, dashboards to access real-time information, and a dispatching system to assign incoming requests to the appropriate Community-Based Organization (CBO) based on location. This streamlined workflow has enabled the county to use data to make informed decisions and respond swiftly and effectively to offer services to unhoused individuals.
This innovative solution helps set a strategic direction that will lead to measurable reductions in the number of people in the community experiencing homelessness. The data collected over time will help articulate a path to achieve this goal, and the program has already shown significant impact.
SMC HOME is a GIS application developed in ArcGIS that serves as a vital tool for field personnel to identify, photograph, and report suspected homeless encampments and vehicles used by unhoused individuals. The system works by utilizing the GIS location of the field personnel to send an automated alert to a community-based organization (CBO) that is responsible for the appropriate region. The CBO then dispatches an employee to contact the unhoused individual(s) and offer services.
The reporting and follow-up, along with other statistics and a map showing GIS locations of encampments, is available in a dashboard. The app uses Microsoft Automate to send email notifications and Twilio to send SMS notifications, ensuring that all stakeholders are informed of the latest updates and the status of requests. Training videos were made for field personnel, ensuring that the app is easy to use.
The Homeless Outreach Dashboard replaces a siloed and disjointed system where cases were managed and tracked in individual emails and spreadsheets, with no comprehensive reporting or tracking. This new system allows CBOs and County Departments to identify locations that are frequently used by homeless people so they can be more proactive in offering services to unhoused individuals.
SMC HOME, which aims to identify and assist individuals experiencing homelessness, has been a successful initiative. The pilot program had a target of identifying 25 cases, which was exceeded with 38 cases identified. The program operates in ten different cities or regions, and three responding agencies have improved their outreach efficiency thanks to the streamlined process of submitting and responding to reports.
During the pilot phase, the program achieved a 77% success rate in responding to reports within 24 hours, which represents a significant improvement over previous methods. However, the target of achieving a 90% contact rate within 24 hours remains challenging due to the transient nature of the homeless population. The app provides community-based organizations (CBOs) with detailed information, including precise location data, leading to a more timely response. Additionally, the app allows CBOs to track multiple attempts to make contact with individuals and to record the services offered once contact is made.
Overall, the program has improved efficiency in identifying and assisting individuals experiencing homelessness. The app has achieved a high success rate in responding to reports within 24 hours, provided more detailed information to agencies, and improved communication and accuracy. The program has generated positive feedback and satisfaction from agencies and individuals alike. Furthermore, elected officials and decision-makers have access to important facts and real-time data that inform decision-making and resource allocation.