The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires housing bodies to conduct the PIT count, a snapshot of a single night of the number of people experiencing homelessness, every year in January. The count captures people in emergency shelters, traditional housing, safe havens, and those who are unsheltered, although HUD only requires that the unsheltered be counted every two years. Traditionally, Simmons said, the count requires hundreds of volunteers to fan out with paper forms and tally up people they see. The “painful exercise,” he said, could take months to tabulate and might lead to unreliable data if the forms are misread or volunteers miscount people.

“With the app, what would normally take two months can take two days,” Simmons said. “With geolocation and GPS data, we can do reporting by subregion and community. This is actionable data that allows governments to do more to address the causes of homelessness.”

Simtech also produces the Show the Way app, which allows users to capture geolocation data and demographic information and log specific experiences of a person experiencing homelessness. The app uploads the data to a central database to build more support and connect to case managers. After that app was piloted in Houston, San Diego, and Charlotte, North Carolina, it is now active in six communities, Simmons said.

“This is not replacing existing work, this is a better way to capture information so it meets the operational needs of housing providers and case managers,” Simmons said. “We’re thinking about what a person needs and how we can keep that person lifted up and not falling into homelessness again. This is about making it easier to connect to the whole process and network of nonprofits and services.”

Read the full article about homelessness by Jason Plautz at Smart Cities Dive.