New York City's StreetSmart App Feeds into Single Citywide Database for Homelessness

New York City has deployed StreetSmart in the Bronx and Staten Island, with plans to expand through the rest of the city by the end of June.

by / June 9, 2017
Homeless man on Canal Street in New York City's Chinatown. Flickr/-{ thus }-

New York City is rolling out an app called StreetSmart, which enables homelessness outreach workers in all five boroughs to communicate and log data seamlessly in real time while in the field.

City officials estimate there about 400 people who work daily with homeless individuals in New York, interacting and collecting data about their situations and needs. With StreetSmart, these workers will be able to enter that information into a single citywide database as they collect it, a stark contrast to the prior system, which saw individual outreach workers keeping their own files in systems that were generally not interconnected.

“This app basically allows us to help outreach workers communicate better with each other,” said Jaclyn Rothenberg, a spokeswoman for the New York City mayor’s office.

StreetSmart presents a particularly useful set of benefits for efforts in New York, where it is not uncommon for individuals to move between boroughs, meaning outreach workers run the risk of duplicating each other’s work. Rothenberg said steady, knowledgeable contact and building trust is key to reducing homelessness there, and this app will improve workers’ abilities to accomplish just that.

“It can take anywhere between one and 200 contacts to encourage someone to come off the streets,” she said.

New York City has deployed StreetSmart in the Bronx and Staten Island, with plans to expand through the rest of the city by the end of June. The app has been well received by outreach professionals in those two areas.

Juan Rivera, who directs homeless outreach for the nonprofit organization BronxWorks, said StreetSmart has the potential to greatly enhance his group’s ability to do its job.

“The work that we do with homeless individuals in a big borough and in the city — a huge piece of that is tracking folks,” Rivera said. “You need a system that can help you keep track of what’s going on, of who you’re encountering, what’s happening with them, what you’re doing with them, progress. StreetSmart gives us that one system we can use to do all that work. The more information you’re armed with, the better you can do things.”

Rivera described the app as user-friendly, and ascribed a big part of its usefulness to an IT team that stayed in constant communication with outreach workers while developing it.

View other cities using technology to tackle homelessness

Zack Quaintance Staff Writer

Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.