Homeless Man

Street Smart Dashboard

The City of New York is trying to combat homelessness by using technology.  Normally, I am all for this, but I wonder how effective this tool is actually going to be?  The application is known as StreetSmart, and it provides information to agencies and case workers on specific individuals.  Which, in theory, is amazing as it will allow the city to help homeless people in a more meaningful way.  But at the same time how are they going to do it?  While I am not trying to be insensitive, but off the top it sounds like a catch, track and release type of programs that we see with animals.

Except in this case, the intention is to be able to provide adequate services to homeless people.  Off the bat one would think that this means a place to stay.  And of course, that’s important.  However, there are other services that someone who is homeless might need that often gets over looked.  For example, having access to proper medical care is extremely important.  I don’t want to generalize, but many people who are homeless may also be suffering from some kind of mental health disability.  Which only compounds their ability to find appropriate services.

On one hand, I commend the City of New York for their efforts as I feel this will provide better services.  However, on the other hand, I just wonder how they’re going to be able to manage the intake.  What do I mean by that?  How are they going to track their interactions with people?  A case worker has a meeting with someone, and then they put that information into a database.  Which is all fine and well, but then what happens when another case worker meets with that person?  How will the case worker know who they are, in some cases, to be able either look up their file, or add to it?

Homeless Stats

I can see this in a positive way, in that, all the databases will be able to “talk” to each other.  Thus preventing issues that might arise within the person’s file itself, but also reducing government redundancy.  Which we can all agree is extremely necessary.  That being said, though, what is all this going to do in terms of reducing the number of homeless people in the city?  My guess is not a lot unless there are places for people to stay.  On one hand, are shelters enough?  The theory behind a shelter is that it gives someone a place to stay for the night.  The shelters, along with these databases will hopefully help people to get off the streets.  But there is a much, much larger issue.

And that is the cost of housing in New York City.  I have had the pleasure of visiting the city many times, but could never imagine how one could afford to live there.  I guess what I’m trying to say is will all of this actually help with the problem of homelessness? Or is there a bigger issue, and one that is trying to be solved by the use of technology?  I have said many times, how in favour I am of technology providing helpful solutions.  But I’m wondering if this is missing the mark.  And whether or not technology can actually solve this type of problem?

By Staff Writer

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