Volunteers Use Smartphones To Count Homeless In South Bay

SAN JOSE (KCBS) – Volunteers in Santa Clara County are going high-tech to help gather data from the hundreds of people sleeping on the streets.

Armed with their smartphones, volunteers are continuing the homeless census in the South Bay. If they find a homeless person willing to talk to them, they do an interview, enter the information into their iPhone or Android and take their picture, before sending that information back to a database.

Jen Padgett, the Executive Director of the Community Technology Alliance, said the national campaign, “Common Ground,” is using the technology to help create a homeless registry.

“Instead of writing it down and bringing it back, where there could be some data quality issues, the person who is uploading the information is the one who actually did the survey with the client,” said Padgett.

Volunteers hope to complete the registry by the end of this week, after which it will be used to craft homeless services.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo said that while the smartphone program seems like a great idea, it can be difficult to get some of the homeless to talk, when often times, they would just rather be left alone.

“It’s not easy to ask people very personal questions about their health history, their prison record, things of that nature,” said Liccardo. “It always helps if they start out by asking a simple question like, do you want a cup of coffee? Usually, that opens up dialogue.”

It’s estimated that on any given night, 7,000 people sleep on the streets in Silicon Valley.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

More from Matt Bigler
  • Deborah

    services never work and those counting are only creating or keeping jobs for those who have programs for the homeless.

  • woodyguthrie

    I would never volunteer to surveil on the homeless, this is sick. If I was able to, I would volunteer with Food Not Bombs instead.They’re getting beat up and arrested for just trying to serve food to homeless (and anyone else) in public spaces. I don’t believe for a minute that this smartphone count will help provide services for homeless. Anyone is naive who thinks that will happen..

  • Vivian

    I love people who criticize the work being done and then have the nerve to say, “If I was able to, I would volunteer…” Real nice. Eat half of our dinner on any given night and share the rest with someone. Better yet, go serve up two plates and ask if they want company for dinner.

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