$3.4 million software system will collect data like how many unhoused live in the county
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — There will be a new way to collect homelessness data in San Luis Obispo County after Supervisors unanimously approved investing in a $3.4 million software system at the Tuesday, August 8 meeting. The new technology aims to revolutionize the way data is collected and managed regarding unhoused individuals within the county.
With District 1 Supervisor John Peschong absent, Supervisors voted 4-0 for the new software, which will collect data like how many unhoused live in the county and what services they use regularly.
“Measuring the extent and understanding the nature of homelessness is essential to combating it,” said San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services Manager Joe Dzvonik.
The county has been continuously looking for ways to address homelessness. Many agreed that the more they know about the homeless community here, the better they can be addressed. As part of the county’s five-year plan, they are aiming to reduce homelessness in half by 2027.
“The capability expansion shown here is nothing short of revolutionary,” said Dzvonik. “It allows our service providers to communicate rapidly and accurately in a way never seen before in this county.”
The driving force behind the new software is the need for a more comprehensive and efficient data management system. The current system, as described by Dzvonik, lacks the capacity to track the entire journey of an unhoused — from their initial entry into homelessness to accessing services and, ideally, finding housing. This creates a disjointed approach, where service providers struggle to gather and analyze client data effectively. Janna Nichols, the executive director of the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition, says that existing data entry redundancies consume precious time that could be better utilized.
“In the long term, there’s so many savings,” said Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg, while acknowledging the high price tag for the software. “There’s just a huge loop of being able to help each other while helping individuals.”
The multi-million-dollar investment, Homeless Services Information Management System (HSIMS) developed by Bitfocus and Institute for Community Alliances, aims to streamline that data collection, analysis, and communication across various agencies and organizations. Nichols noted the current difficulties of service workers having to enter the same data for each client into four different databases. Adding to the communication difficulties, agencies are unable to view each other’s data making it difficult to collaborate with other agencies.
The new software system will allow service providers to access a unified platform, eliminating the need for entering the same data multiple times and allowing for a broader picture of an individual’s needs.
District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold agreed that the new software is a necessary expense for the county, “This board has approved approximately $33 million now in funding for housing homeless … it is expensive to get these good programs up and running.”
The next San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 22, at 9 a.m.