Austin, TX Leverages GIS to Synchronize Resources Around Homelessness

Austin, Texas has developed a homeless encampment management app to help coordinate responses for site management, tracking and prioritization.

According to the Route-Fifty article, the application focuses specifically on end-user adaptability when engaged in on-site management activities that require the coordination of multiple governmental departments.

“The tool is used in the field by staff to capture information about homeless encampments, including factors related to health, safety, and impacts on infrastructure, property, and environmental health. This information results in a score that helps city staff prioritize locations for intervention.”

Safe and successful management of homeless encampments relies on resources from a myriad of departments within local governments. The synchronization of these activities has a direct impact on the effective delivery of services to individuals living within them.

In Austin, the technology then, only proved to be as successful as the organization of employees around the program in bringing the vision to life. A Homeless Encampment Management Team, was established with staff from across multiple departments and broken into four sub-teams – planning, operations, policy and leadership. City managers went on to highlight the focus of delegating appropriate authority in minimizing errors and redundancies during the implementation phase by “ensuring that camp closures would not be undertaken “outside of the Homeless Encampment Management Team process, except in cases when immediate action is required because an encampment poses an immediate hazard or obstruction.””

Before a full roll out of the application, Austin was experiencing a silo effect where their efforts lacked a unified response to the problem according to a brief linked in the article. Each department managed its own area and collected different types of data with numerous systems of varying utility and comprehension for non-users. The result was an incomplete picture of the scope of the problem and any corresponding progress.

Innovative solutions like this in Austin, are gaining ground across the country especially those leveraging GIS technology in understanding and solving some of the challenges around housing insecurity. The capturing, mapping and tracking of data allows local governments with finite resources to streamline service delivery to vulnerable populations in an evolving range of ways.

Read full Route-Fifty article.

Read MACo blog on NACo GIS Trends for 2023.