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San Diego County to Leverage Data to Combat Homelessness

San Diego County has launched two new efforts to help combat homelessness: the adoption of a policy enabling the use predictive analytics to help those at risk, and an app to help connect people experiencing homelessness with resources.

homeless man riding a bicycle while carrying bags and backpacks
A homeless man on the streets of San Diego.
This week, San Diego County, Calif., announced the launches of two new efforts to help combat homelessness.

The first is the adoption of a policy to use predictive analytics to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, and the second is the Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities (HSEC) Outreach App.

The 2022 Point in Time Count found that over 8,000 individuals were experiencing homelessness across San Diego County, marking a 10 percent increase from 2020. And to better tackle this issue, local and state government entities are exploring more creative solutions: from a statewide database and interactive maps, to websites that compile resources for those struggling with homelessness.
While both of these efforts look to address homelessness in San Diego County, they do so in different ways.


Most recently, San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher’s policy to use predictive analytics to proactively prevent people from becoming homeless passed during the Oct. 25 board meeting.

The policy enables the creation of an integrated data system, which will use multiple data points to help the county identify persons who may be at risk of becoming homeless and offer various forms of support. The department has 180 days to create a plan for its implementation.

Fletcher said many of the county efforts to combat homelessness have been focused on helping those currently experiencing homelessness, underlining that that is only part of the problem. “I don’t think, in general, there’s enough focus on prevention,” he said.

The county has many points of data available related to individuals, noting that they could be valuable in creating an early warning system to identify someone who is at risk of losing their housing. He said this method of taking a proactive approach has already proven impactful in Los Angeles County.

Fletcher said that creating such a system will require interdepartmental collaboration to include data ranging from child welfare to mental health to involvement in the justice system. However, he also noted that because this is solely for internal use, the data will be under the same privacy restrictions that are in place for other county data.

If someone is determined to be at risk, having staff dedicated to prevention that can proactively reach out to those individuals and offer various services can help keep those who are currently housed in their current housing or find other housing. As such, the policy also calls for creating a Homeless Prevention Unit within the Office of Homelessness Solutions to conduct outreach.

“When you look at the total of what we spend trying to address issues of homelessness, this is a very modest investment that, if it keeps folks housed in their homes, it can be another tool at our disposal,” Fletcher said.


To help support those currently experiencing homelessness, the HSEC Outreach App, developed by RevTech, was announced earlier this week as a new tool for county personnel. The app enables county employees to connect people who are experiencing homelessness to services.

Essentially, it helps non-outreach employees that may come into contact with people experiencing homelessness through their work to easily send a referral to HSEC staff, who will then be responsible for connecting directly with that individual to offer services. Through this technology, 60 additional county employees will be able to directly impact people experiencing homelessness.

“It’s just a really simple, efficient way for our county workers with a high probability of interacting with folks who are unsheltered to be able to do something about it,” Fletcher said, explaining that people working in certain roles such as park rangers or librarians often come into contact with these people but are not necessarily trained in how to perform that specific type of outreach.

The app will help to get services to a person in need it as quickly as in the same day that the referral was sent electronically. In addition to streamlining the referral process, it will also offer HSEC teams a better system for monitoring and tracking things like encampments in real-time.

This technology is currently being used in Seattle as well as the city and county of Denver.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.