Track services

County plans to track homeless people by name, not number

A countywide database that lists homeless people by name could help agencies and nonprofits coordinate services and be more successful in getting people off the streets, say two supervisors from the county in a proposal presented to the supervisory board on Tuesday.

Supervisors Jim Desmond and Tera Lawson-Remer argue that such a list has already been successful in helping to reduce the homeless population of veterans and youth in the county. Tuesday’s proposal will ask county staff to work with the community to explore the feasibility of a list of names and get back to council with projected costs and staffing needs within 90 days.

“There’s no coordinated effort right now,” Desmond said Monday of the proposal. “This will transform the strategy to end homelessness.”

Desmond said the names on the list would not be made public, but would be in an internal system that would help homeless service providers track clients who may be moving from one area of ​​the county to another. Details on how the list would be compiled have yet to be worked out, but Desmond said homeless people’s participation would be voluntary.

As an example of the benefit of the name list, Desmond said that if a person who obtained mental health services in Chula Vista were to move to Oceanside, agencies in that North County town would be able to see quickly what treatment this person has already received. .

Desmond said the suggestion for the list came from Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services in Escondido and a board member of the regional homelessness task force.

Anglea said the list will likely start in a few communities as a pilot, but could expand to include the entire county within 12 to 18 months.

Listing by name would be the latest effort to coordinate homeless services across the county. The Regional Homelessness Task Force is the lead agency for the county’s Homeless Management Information System, a software system mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities that receive a federal funding for homelessness programs. Data from HMIS has been used by the Regional Homelessness Task Force to create its Coordinated Entry System to connect homeless people to housing, focusing first on the most vulnerable people in the community. population.

Anglea said the data only goes so far.

“It can measure a lot of activity in this system,” he said. “We can measure and report on the activities and successes of our individual programs. But if we want to see how many people are homeless in Escondido, we actually don’t have that information.

The one-time annual count includes the number of people on the streets or in shelters in different cities on a specific night, but this number has always been considered inaccurate. Anglea said HMIS has its own shortcomings because it tracks people in programs, but doesn’t tell their location. This could cause a person to be identified as being in Escondido if they receive services from Interfaith, which is based in that city, although the person is actually in San Marcos, he said.

Data by name is already used locally for two homeless subpopulations. In March 2021, the City of San Diego joined the nationwide Built for Zero initiative to reduce veteran and youth homelessness. The initiatives use name lists, and both subpopulations declined during the 2022 count conducted in February.

Anglea said another benefit of listing by name will be for homeless people themselves, as they won’t have to tell their personal story to every new service provider or outreach worker they meet.

Regional Homelessness Task Force CEO Tamera Kohler said a county-wide list of names will help communities and homeless service providers better understand who is homeless. in their region.

“Instead of just working on their own programs, they’re going to work collectively on people they know in their community,” she said of how the list will help coordinate services for individuals.

By knowing individuals by name rather than anonymous numbers in programs, Anglea and Kohler said the list by name will also track people entering and exiting homelessness, giving a better sense of progress and progress. work that remains to be done. .