Tech Innovation to Streamline Homeless Services

Leveraging technology to help people experiencing homelessness, Los Angeles County has announced awards in its Technology Innovation Challenge, aimed at creating partnerships with the technology sector to encourage innovation, creativity and sustainable solutions that will have the most impact on the homeless services delivery system.

The winners will share $1.375 million in grant funding to develop transformative, human-centered solutions to help the County and its partners improve homeless services delivery in four key areas. Each firm will receive $200,000 to $500,000.

“Thinking outside the box to help people living on the streets can literally save lives, specially with a pandemic exacerbating our homeless crisis,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “I look forward to harnessing the inventiveness, creativity and compassion brought to the forefront by the Technology Innovation Challenge.”

Winner: One Degree

Project: One-LA-Connection

Category: Centralized Customer Portal

One-LA-Connection (OLAC) is a web-based and mobile-accessible hub for Los Angeles County residents experiencing homelessness to be screened for, apply for, and manage services needed to stabilize and thrive. OLAC, a partnership between One Degree and Alluma, two partner nonprofits in the “tech-for-good” sector, brings dignity and efficiency to the process of connecting people to the help they need to achieve social and economic mobility.

Winner: Akido Labs

Project: Connect

Category: Customer-Driven Mobile Digital Services

Akido Labs is partnering with the nonprofit homeless services provider HOPICS to enable a client-driven approach to South L.A.’s homelessness response efforts by democratizing access to public-services data. Connect is a technology platform that makes it easy to access homeless services data from any place.

Winner: Huemen Design

Project: LA Helplink

Category: Geomapping Hub & Resources

Category: Operational Reporting of Performance Outcomes 

Currently, data surrounding homelessness in LA exists in several separate systems, resulting in inconsistencies and inefficiencies. Huemen Deseign offers a solution that focuses on providing real-time data that can be enriched over time, with a focus on staff and service availability, inventory and eligibility information. The system will allow future data sources to be easily plugged in and scaled as more data becomes available. Huemen also imagines a platform where the unique needs of the data can be customized based on user needs.

Judging was conducted by a panel of homeless services and technology experts, with final selection by Phil Ansell, Director, Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative; Heidi Marston, Executive Director, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority; and William Kehoe, Los Angeles County Chief Information Officer.

“These award-winning entries demonstrate the power of technology and innovation to help us solve real world problems experienced by real people,” Ansell said. “The Homeless Initiative is proud and grateful to be able to sponsor this Challenge and help move our homeless services delivery system to the next level.”

“We know homelessness is dynamic and our response to this crisis needs to reflect that. Technological innovation is one of the best ways for us to remain responsive. LAHSA is eager to partner with the winners of this challenge to drive creative solutions that will help us collectively serve our unhoused neighbors,” Marston said.

“The Technology Innovation Challenge brought forward civic tech companies from around the country that were passionate in providing modern technology solutions to help L.A County residents who are experiencing homeless access services, receive information and get the help they need,” Kehoe said. “L.A. County is proud to help foster these public-interest solutions from our partners in the private sector.”

The winning projects will now be customized to meet current homeless services needs, based on input from upcoming focus groups with representatives of County departments and partner agencies. After the design phase, the goal is to have the projects begin implementation in January 2021.