West Sacramento Maps Out Homeless Population

Appledore app first step in better serving people experiencing homelessness

Back Web Only May 17, 2017 By Allen Young

The City of West Sacramento has started using mapping software to locate homeless camps as a way to monitor the local homeless population and direct them to public assistance.

Once fully implemented, the Appledore platform could signal a breakthrough in how the City directs services to the needy. Rather than homeless individuals needing to enter government buildings and fill out public assistance paperwork, or social workers descending upon homeless camps with a stack of questionnaires, those experiencing homelessness can simply dictate their personal information to social workers from the encampment where they live and have grown familiar.

“Most the occupants of the camps are elusive by nature and aren’t coming into the door to get services and help,” says Mark Sawyer, homeless services coordinator for West Sacramento Police Department.

“We have to come to them,” he says. “We have to come into the field.”

Appledore was developed by two Bay Area engineers who partnered with the city last year during Startups in Residence, a program that transformed the city governments of San Francisco, Oakland and West Sacramento into tech incubators to help the public sector.

Under the 16-week residency program, the engineers followed the day-to-day work of public servants and then developed web applications intended to streamline government. At the end of the program, the cities were given an option to approve a contract to continue using the platform. In January, West Sacramento signed the contract with Appledore.

For the Startups in Residence program, the West Sacramento Police Department initially requested a mobile app that would allow police to instantly provide homeless individuals with vouchers for food, shelter and transportation.

Public employees are now using a scaled-down version of that idea, but the app’s developers say the platform can be expanded after local agencies overcome privacy and legal concerns associated with data sharing.

“When they are ready to share data between different agencies, we would be able to turn on that functionality,” says Tiffany Pang, co-founder of Appledore.

Here’s how the app works: Sitting at a computer, public employees look up the location of a homeless camp they visited in-person and drop a pin, informing other employees of its GPS coordinates. The location can be tagged with different colors that classify it as occupied, abandoned or cleared and available for different use. Notes can be affixed to the pin informing public employees of the number and gender of people living in the camp.

It may be awhile before the software is vetted and embraced by a variety of public departments that provide services to the homeless. But if that happens, a social worker could use the app to instantly pull up notes left by another social worker on the client’s needs, and updates on efforts to match that person to public assistance. The City also hopes to link the encampment data to existing crime data to understand what types of crime may be occurring close to encampments.

The Appledore app cannot match the homeless to housing, but in the past, West Sacramento took an innovative approach to that goal. In 2014, the Bridge to Housing program moved 65 people living on a river encampment into a former West Sacramento motel on W. Capitol Avenue owned by the County of Sacramento. Local authorities shuttered the encampment because the property was going up for sale.

The Bridge to Housing program was only possible for a select population because the closing of the encampment was designated as a federal displacement action, a move that lifted the camp’s inhabitants to the front of a federal waiting list for Section 8 housing vouchers. Sawyer, the city’s point-person for homelessness, says he still regularly receives calls from people without a home requesting a housing voucher. Unfortunately, he says, he cannot accommodate them.

Appledore gives the City a bird’s eye view of all homeless encampments so that social services and public safety departments can work together to address the situation. While outdoor camping isn’t legal and encampments can be dismantled, Sawyer stresses that the city gives individuals numerous options for social services that will “improve their life” before a person is removed from their encampment by law enforcement.

Since the City cannot afford to house its entire homeless population in motel units, Sawyer says his top priority is giving one-time grants to newly homeless people who need help covering a move-in deposit for an apartment they will ultimately be able to pay for.

For the chronically homeless who lack the capacity to sustain housing on their own, Sawyer says he is advocating the City to identify funding for a permanent supportive housing site.

Sawyer admits that projects like Bridge to Housing and Appledore cannot, in themselves, significantly reverse the problem of homelessness in West Sacramento. But he argues they show creative thinking toward the intractable problem.

“They help, but it’s not the whole thing,” he says. “But there are not a lot of cities of this size doing things like this.”

Comments

Regina Basurto (not verified)May 17, 2017 - 9:55am

My church is starting a feed the homeless program where we go out to areas of towns and give out either breakfasts or lunches. Is there a way to find out where the homeless live? We can better help if we know their location. Thanks.

Frank L. Topping (not verified)May 18, 2017 - 2:26pm

Regina, a wonderful group called CAFFE (Clothing And Food For Everyone) feeds our Homeless every Sunday morning at 8am in Cesar Chavez Plaza (SW corner) in downtown Sacramento.

On 9th St., between H & I Sts. in front of City Hall the *Community Dinner Project* feeds every Tuesday at 4:30 before City Council mtgs. -- a bran new group has started feeding Wednesday evenings there.

All these enjoy phenomenally popular support & welcome volunteers or donations -- the Tuesday night group encourages *organic* food.

Each of these groups easily exceeds serving well over 200 people each time. They're great people I'm sure you'd enjoy participation with, or starting a morning or evening feeding otherwise not served would be wonderful too!

See the Facebook page: "Community Dinner Project, Sacramento" for more info.
Enjoy! -frank

Visitor (not verified)May 20, 2017 - 7:35pm

Its a nice thought but homeless folks are not gonna be cool with this simply because the last thing they want is for the police to know where they are. Over the last few months, homeless have been arrested and detained just long enough for their belonging to be stolen, I k ow of on camp that the police burned down right then because they told them not to continue to camp there. OK I understand they were warned but it was during the heavy rai s we had and many locations the homeless camped that were out of site were flooded out and they had literally no where to go. So they felt it was the this g to do to burn down the tent and all that was I inside? Personal belongings, important papers, clothes...this was just wrong. But now you think they are gonna allow someone e to track them? 80% will move as soon as they realize they are "located" and their are next to no resources for homeless in West Sacramento. And the Bridges to housing project...that was a joke. You can probably count on your hands bow many are in homes today. Half of them never had a chance because they had felonies and you don't qualify for section 8 if you are a felon. Something that should have been made aware in the beginning. Instead ma y were given false hope and lost all trust and faith in the system.

Visitor (not verified)May 20, 2017 - 7:37pm

Its a nice thought but homeless folks are not gonna be cool with this simply because the last thing they want is for the police to know where they are. Over the last few months, homeless have been arrested and detained just long enough for their belonging to be stolen, I k ow of on camp that the police burned down right then because they told them not to continue to camp there. OK I understand they were warned but it was during the heavy rai s we had and many locations the homeless camped that were out of site were flooded out and they had literally no where to go. So they felt it was the this g to do to burn down the tent and all that was I inside? Personal belongings, important papers, clothes...this was just wrong. But now you think they are gonna allow someone e to track them? 80% will move as soon as they realize they are "located" and their are next to no resources for homeless in West Sacramento. And the Bridges to housing project...that was a joke. You can probably count on your hands bow many are in homes today. Half of them never had a chance because they had felonies and you don't qualify for section 8 if you are a felon. Something that should have been made aware in the beginning. Instead ma y were given false hope and lost all trust and faith in the system.

Visitor (not verified)May 31, 2017 - 6:45pm

If they are able they should support themselves - please never give to able homeless people. All they are is greedy and selfish. They want your worked-for money so they don't have to work for it themselves.

Mike Cool (not verified)July 8, 2018 - 12:08pm

Well finally acknowledgement. Now that it is official, (the city acknowledging there is homeless people here) do you think we could maybe put out some port-a-potties out near the homeless. I mean c'mon you put them out during opening day of the fishing season and at the park during soccer season. It seems reasonable or are you afraid it would make them more comfortable? Also the majority of the panhandlers I've seen in the past 11 years aren't actually the people living in tents but are the transients living in the motels on West Capital. And finally, as far as the homeless wanting to live outside I know a couple, but the majority of them are on a fixed income and cannot afford the cost of an apartment. I know one lady 64 yrs old on disability, with a payee who is living in a shack behind the Harley shop who gets a whopping $45 to live on, after her rent and bills are paid. This is insane.

Kimberlee Guillory (not verified)June 10, 2022 - 6:29am

I am 63yrs old, and am a women I became homeless in Aug of 2021 after my 33yr old daughter lost her battle with pancreatic cancer, after she passed I stayed in Napa, were she lived, to take care of my 2yr old grandson Gabriel for almost a year after she passed. While I was dealing with all of this my roommate moved some guy in to help him with the bill's and the man started stealing my roommate's money and he wasn't able to pay our rent. I came home on Aug 2021
and was served a week later that we were being evicted. We were told by the owner's if we were out in three days they would not file the eviction. So of course we were out in three days. My roommate went to the homeless shelter in woodland I was not able to go because I have 2 small dogs I have had sense they were born and they are like my children and after recently losing my daughter the thought of giving them up was more than I could handle. So I became homeless I had no place to go I didn't know were to go where I thought I'd be safe. So I contacted Mark Sowyer and was told he didn't know what I wanted him to do for me. Now a few days later my tent was stolen and all my belongings. My life was threatened and now I'm really scared so I contact mark again. Told him what had happened and I feared for my life, and again he said well I don't know what you want me to do for you. So here I am still homeless and was living in a tent behind the parole office when Sowyers people came and told us we could not be there and we had to move I cried and asked them were am I supposed to go they looked at me and said they didn't know and that they would be back in a few days to make sure we were gone and if we were still there we would be given a ticket witch is a misdemeanor. I don't know what to do. I can't get any help. I don't have a car and my dogs can't get on public transportation because they're not service dogs so I can't go to far in this heat. I am I need help I am on SSDI I fear for my life everyday and I don't see any way out. Not to mention it's getting very hot. Please if you have any solutions to give me please do. Thank you Kimberlee

Kimberlee Guillory (not verified)June 10, 2022 - 7:02am

First of all you can't expect them to be civilized just because they have housing. Most of the people who were in the program had been homeless for years some for at least 10 years or more. Not to mention
many of them were evicted illegally. I no many of them use to go past my house on 5th st and I would feed them and do what ever I could to help them out. I got to know a lot of them and they told me about how they were evicted and most of them were evicted illegally within a year or less. All that money they spent on the program was wasted and now they are asking for more money to do it again. A studio in West sac is going for $1900 dollars. I'm on a fixed income I can't afford that and for me to get on the housing lists I could be waiting for years before my name comes up and I can't get any help from Mark Sawyer because I'm not cronic homeless. They just received 2.7 million dollars towards there new program a few months ago plus another $450.000 on top of all the other money they get every year. So I don't understand why I can't get any help?

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