Mobile Technology Helps Find Housing for the Homeless
To provide needed services to all residents, governments need to move technology out of the office and take it on the road.
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That’s what the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has done. It has achieved a significant increase in its ability to provide services, thanks to the recent deployment of a mobile handheld solution for its housing inspectors. The inspectors have to move around the city all the time, checking buildings that could serve as suitable housing for the homeless.
Previously, the inspectors had to fill out paper forms in the field and office and then input everything into a database. That process could delay placement of a client in a home for days. With the mobile solution—provided by Global Bay Mobile Technologies and IBM—inspectors share data in real time regarding the status of a permanent residence.
Results demonstrate a clear improvement: The number of leases signed for 2009 through Advantage New York, DHS’s rental assistance program, is averaging 140 a week — up 25 percent compared with 2008.
“Not only that, but our inspectors are seeing a 57 percent increase in productivity,” says Robert Hess, commissioner of the New York City DHS. “They get in their cars at home in the morning, turn their mobile devices on, get directions to their first house, inspect that house and then download the results immediately to their supervisors.”
The inspectors can answer checklist-formatted questions, sketch a dwelling’s layout, take pictures and/or video of the space, and make sure everything is in compliance with federal Housing and Urban Development regulations. They can collect and send this and other information to the DHS database from the field in less than an hour.
“Once the documentation is downloaded and passes inspection, we go to leasing arrangements immediately,” Hess says. “If it doesn’t pass, we find out what needs to be corrected so the building owner can make the necessary changes.”