ArcGIS Apps Help County Sheriff Provide Targeted Assistance to Homeless Populations
"With the ArcGIS apps, we are able to provide a more targeted approach, saving us an additional hour to an hour and a half a day."
San Bernardino County, California, is the largest county in the US and faces a growing homeless population. To address this issue, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department (SBSD) formed the Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement (HOPE) team to provide services to the more than 1,800 identified homeless people within the county. With 20,000 square miles to cover, the HOPE team modernized its approach to homelessness by replacing spreadsheets with a geographic information system (GIS) to serve as the central system of record. Nine law enforcement agencies, fire services, the US Forest Service, and health and human service agencies, contribute information to the GIS and use shared data to make informed decisions concerning homelessness.
San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department (SBSD) Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement (HOPE) team
The SBSD HOPE team needed to modernize from their pen and paper field surveys
The SBSD HOPE team used Esri's Survey123 for ArcGIS on smartphones and tablets to easily collect data in the field. All data collections were updated in real-time and displayed with Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS.
The survey and map information collected by the SBSD HOPE team members helped them to understand where to allocate the appropriate resources most effectively. GIS saved them time and reduced their driving distances, saving money as well.
The county's homeless population was originally documented on paper during field surveys. This data was brought back into the office and manually entered into spreadsheets. To find case information, county agencies had to cross-reference multiple spreadsheets, which was a time-consuming and error-prone process. Because data wasn't shared between county services, such as the police department and health and human services, county agencies were operating with incomplete information. The locations of homeless populations were often anecdotal and not tied to an accurate map. This made it difficult to connect underserved populations with the assistance they needed, such as mental health services, food, and shelter.
The SBSD HOPE team members used Esri's Survey123 for ArcGIS on smartphones and tablets to easily collect data in the field and quickly create detailed homeless person profiles and contact records. This survey technique was expanded to other county agencies. They also used Collector for ArcGIS to quickly create accurate maps of homeless encampments. These maps enabled SBSD to understand not only the size and details of encampments but also how they were distributed around the county and their proximity to available services. As each survey and map was captured, the information was automatically added to the central system of record in near real time. Partnering agencies used Esri's Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS to track the progress and location of the field data collection efforts and to monitor changes in the homeless populations. Additionally, these dashboards are also used to understand how populations are affected by season and geography.
The survey and map information collected by the SBSD HOPE team members helped them to understand where to allocate the appropriate resources most effectively. GIS saved them time and reduced their driving distances, saving money as well. According to deputy sheriff Mike Jones, "With the [ArcGIS apps], we are able to provide a more targeted approach, saving us an additional hour to an hour and a half a day." The location-based system that SBSD created allows multiple agencies to contribute and search for homeless records. It changed how the HOPE program serves homeless populations in the county and gave team members the ability to collect and share information quickly between agencies. Information sharing enabled the sheriff's department to collaborate with other police departments across the county, making it faster and easier to access homeless people's contact information.
Having access to detailed digital maps on mobile devices gives officers the ability to collect data in the field and make it immediately available with real-time dashboards for faster decision-making and coordination of work in the field. Ultimately, GIS made it easier for officers, health workers, and people in other agencies to work together and connect underserved populations with the services they needed.