The district attorney recommends a mobile homeless shelter application
SAN DIEGO – A proposed mobile platform could place homeless people in shelters with the click of an app.
On Tuesday, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan proposed a unique homeless plan to the County Board of Supervisors.
Stephan wants to use technology to help homeless people find shelter beds more easily and efficiently.
According to the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness, in 2022, the most recent Point-In-Time count, 4,106 people are without shelter in every corner of the county.
“For me, this is both a humanitarian and a public security crisis. And with that, we need new solutions,” said Stephan.
According to Stephan, one such solution to help the homeless struggle is the creation of a first-of-its-kind, county-wide shelter bed mobile app for those who come into contact with refugees.
Social service providers, homeless services, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, EMS and hospitals can access the app. Stephan stays, eventually the kiosks will also be available to private individuals.
“You’ll know exactly in no time.” Is there a shelter? And is this shelter suitable for someone who is on the street?” Stephan said.
The proposal is an expansion of the Safe Shelter Collaborative, a project started during the pandemic.
According to Stephan, victims of domestic violence and human trafficking find a bed in eight minutes instead of ten days.
Proponents say to think about technology like certain travel websites or hotel booking sites, where you can filter out an individual’s needs and reserve a bed on the spot.
“Can I bring my companion animal? If I am with a partner or children, can they be with me? Will I just feel safe there? Is it close to my family? My network of people? said Marnie Webb, CEO of Caravan Studios, Head of Community Impact, Product Development, Techsoup.
His team created the Safe Shelter Collaborative and is now working on a new app. According to the Castle Park High School alumnus, the platform will cost $300,000 to develop. The app, Webb says, is about transparency, fairness and efficiency.
“I would also add dignity. How to get information about shelters visible to the people you know who need them, so they have a choice about where to go and make sure it’s a good fit for them,” Webb said.
Last fall, dozens of stakeholders pitched their ideas, including the homeless provider Lucky Duck Foundation.
“Instead of picking up the phone and calling 20 different shelters until you find a bed,” said Drew Moser, executive director of the Lucky Duck Foundation. “Someone in our group described it as pulling into a parking structure, knowing exactly how many parking spaces are available, which currently doesn’t exist with the shelter system, which is arguably our region’s number one crisis.”
There are skeptics. Michael McConnell has long been a critic of the way homelessness is handled in the area.
He likes the way the technology tracks data about an individual’s needs, but worries that because there are so few beds, it might be off target.
“I’m not totally against it,” McConnell said. “At the end of the day, if they don’t want to make space for people, it’s just another tool that sits on the shelf and doesn’t help people off the street.”
Stephan hopes this will move the growing number of homeless victims and perpetrators out of the justice system and onto a path to success.
“We never claim that this solves everything. But we believe that this is an innovative, new solution that improves and makes all other solutions more efficient,” said Stephan.
If approved, the district attorney plans to launch the mobile shelter bed app within six months.