Councilmember Price to propose app-based approach to improve homeless services

In this file photo, homeless individuals set camp at bus stops or in miscellaneous nooks and crannies on First Street, near Long Beach Boulevard, taken at around 3am on Friday, Jan. 4. The man in this photo said he did not want to be identified.

Third District Councilmember Suzie Price will present an agenda item to the Long Beach City Council next week that will aim to improve homeless-outreach services, her office announced Wednesday in a press release.

The item will ask city staff to evaluate the feasibility of developing a Long Beach specific mobile- and web-based application that would show bed availabilities for homeless shelters, rehab and drug detox center and other services in real-time.

The proposed app would be accessible by emergency response teams that work with homeless individuals.

“As someone who has gone on countless outreach ride alongs as a city councilmember as well as throughout my career as a prosecutor, I have seen firsthand, how important outreach can be in building trust and credibility with people suffering from homelessness,” Price stated in the press release. “The amount of time and repeated contact that is necessary to build those relationships is essential as we work to get people off the streets.”

Price said that Long Beach’s homeless-outreach teams would benefit from having real-time updated information, such as bed availabilities, where they can immediately take someone.

“This technology-based solution means we can quickly and effectively allow our officers to access the information they need, in real-time, in order to get people the services they need immediately,” Price said.

Homelessness continues to be one of the most significant issues facing Long Beach.

Late last month, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and City Manager Patrick West revealed the Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal during a press conference in which they said addressing homelessness was “front and center.”

As previously reported in the Signal Tribune, $30 million in total funding to address homelessness were added to the budget as compared to $27 million from federal, state and county grants awarded for use during Fiscal Year 2019.

As an example for her app proposal, Price sited Get Help– a state public-benefit company that has begun working with cities to develop real-time bed availability information.

Last year, the City of Los Angeles announced that it was launching a pilot-program app in collaboration with Get Help, according to the office of Los Angeles 12th District Councilmember Mitchell Englander.

The pilot program was developed through a partnership between Get Help LA and the City of Los Angeles’ Information Technology Agency, according to the company’s website.

Get Help LA also added training for use of the app, and data tracking was provided so that city officials could measure the use and efficacy of the app, the website post stated.

For Long Beach, Price said that staff who work with those experiencing homelessness and addiction can use the app to provide help without delays.

“Technology like this can play a really amazing part in utilizing available resources efficiently, but more importantly it can get people the services and assistance to transform lives for the better,” Price stated in the press release. “If we can put this real-time data in the pockets of outreach teams […] then we stand a chance of getting a higher number of people the help they need.”

The proposed agenda item is co-sponsored by 2nd District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, Vice-Mayor Dee Andrews, and 8th District Councilmember Al Austin, according to the press release.