Making Los Angeles a better place to live for everyone is not easy, but the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency (LAHSA) is up to the task. Every year they organize a homeless count that gives us a better understanding of the current situation and allows the city and county to plan accordingly.
Once again, LAHSA successfully organized a team of volunteers to hit the streets and count the homeless in the Los Angeles region.
The annual survey was held over the weekend from January 24-26 and utilized the latest location-based software from the industry leader, Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri).
Quartic Solutions, a local women-owned business, assisted with the geographic information system (GIS) technology.
This year the count went smoothly, with over 6,600 citizens and staff enthusiastically signing up to volunteer using an online sign-up system. LAHSA had mapped out a network of dispatch locations, ensuring that volunteers knew where to start their shifts and that all areas of the region were covered correctly.
Homelessness in California is a huge problem, particularly in large urban areas such as Los Angeles County. To better understand and address the challenge of homelessness, quantifying the number and extent of homeless people is critical. Once a year, LAHSA conducts the annual Point in Time (PIT) Homeless Count to provide needed data for allocating resources. The state and city programs use the information the count offers to implement more effective and targeted relief programs.
Finding and counting the homeless in a large urban area such as Los Angeles has its challenges. Taking advantage of lessons learned from last year, LAHSA set out to create an application for the volunteers that was easy to use and dependable. This year the data collection utilized the latest location-based technology collecting not only a count of homeless individuals but also which census tracts they were discovered in. Using a lightweight mobile application made data collection easy for volunteers, and organized for LAHSA.
"The goal of the count is to get an accurate picture of the homelessness in our communities. With this information, strategies can be developed to reduce and end homelessness."- LAHSA
As part of Quartic’s commitment to combat societal ills and promote equity, Quartic Solutions took part in the count in two different ways.
Quartic was on the Esri team to develop a mobile application for the count.
The application developed by the team was based on Esri ArcGIS® QuickCapture. This simple application is the fastest way to capture field observations. It allows the user to count a homeless person or shelter just by pressing a button on their phone. The data captured included the location of the observation, the type of observation, and the ability of the user to view their results in an easy-to-understand dashboard format.
Several quality control features were also built into the application to make data collection trouble-free and more accurate. Having a visual of the boundaries of the area in which they were assigned kept volunteers constantly aware of the boundaries and reduced double counting. Finally, the application displayed a map to the collection teams, clearly showing a GPS track of where they had driven or walked. This valuable feature allowed the user to easily see if they had missed any road segments so they could go back and traverse any gaps.
Quartic also had two people, the company President, and Quartic's Director of Marketing, volunteering as counters on the night of January 25.
All volunteers' common goal is to commit to the community and make a difference. The ultimate goal is to make Los Angeles a better place to live for everyone.
Overall, the count was successful, and the QuickCapture mobile app collected the data seamlessly. The count was well-planned, and LAHSA is happy with the result.
According to LAHSA, in 2022, the number of homeless in the Homeless Count by the LA County Supervisorial District was 65,111. That increased from 2020 with the number of 1405 individuals. This year's results from the count are not published yet. According to LAHSA's just-released article, they will turn over the data collected to its data partners at the University of Southern California (USC). USC will perform the statistical analysis, and LAHSA expects to release it in late spring or early summer 2023.
During the San Diego wildfires, San Diego County called on Quartic to provide GIS services in the EOC. Quartic has staff who have been trained by Esri specifically for emergency response, and the skills came in handy.
A wide-range of tasks included: updating the evacuation orders map, providing GIS information for outgoing SMS alerts, and answering questions for the Sheriff's office. There was a Dashboard displaying SDG&E planned & unplanned shutdown areas.
"It was important for us to be available and to react immediately as evacuation orders came through."
DANIEL LUSHER, Senior GIS Consultant
From mapping to ArcGIS Online applications, situational awareness is improving by utilizing the latest tools in GIS.
Using applications available through ArcGIS Online such as Web AppBuilder and Operations dashboard, combined with field applications (Survey123, Collector and Workforce), Quartic Solutions is able to bring much needed situational awareness and coordination to crisis management. By providing a platform that incorporates pre-plan maps with live up-to-date information from first responders on the ground, agencies can respond to emergencies quicker and more efficiently.
Currently, many government emergency management agencies are mapping their pre-event plans on large plotter sized paper maps. During the event, these maps were used in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and would be marked up with colored markers and sticky notes to keep track of the movement of personnel and infrastructure. If a crisis were to happen during an event the maps could be confusing and could not depict real-time situations. The maps were often updated in response to what was happening, rather than informing the decisions.
In addition, ArcGIS Online applications provide multiple agencies with the unique opportunity to coordinate with each other. This can be especially useful in events that cover large geographic areas, such as races, that may cross several municipal boundaries. Typically, in such scenarios, each agency would keep their own records of incidents, where their personnel are, how many people visited aid stations for assistance, etc. Now, they can see, in real time, what the other agencies are dealing with to better prepare their own assets and to help assist other agencies if needed.
ArcGIS Online’s Web AppBuilder allows users, with very minimal training, to be able to digitally map pre-plan maps rather than having to rely on paper maps. In the EOC, during an event, these maps can be updated as assets move and change with the event. In addition, by creating fields such as status, priority areas can easily be highlighted in the maps to draw attention. By creating a digital map online, users can now easily search or filter the data in the maps to focus on a particular area or asset.
In addition, the situational awareness widget in Web AppBuilder can be used if an incident happens to quickly find the nearest resources such as hospitals or aid stations or to better understand the demographics.
Mobile applications allow the maps the show real time data and movement. Collector for ArcGIS gives staff in the field the ability to update the map with more current locations of infrastructure or personnel using a mobile device. These updates would show up in the map in the EOC as they are being made.
Using Workforce, the EOC can easily see where staff resources are moving during an event using GPS tracking. In a crisis this information would help to quickly identify who should respond where. Custom surveys can be created using Survey123 to provide the ability for field crew to send up-to-date information to the command post. One real world way this has been used has been to monitor the status of city-run emergency shelters during a fire. These shelters were able to use Survey123 to report how many people had checked into the shelters and the current status of their supplies. In addition, this could be used at an event to record the number of people seeking aid at aid stations, or for vendors to report the status of their shops and number of injuries in a crisis.
The operations dashboard brings all of this information together to provide a common operational picture. By providing charts and analytics as well as quick statics on all of the information from the field and mapping application, emergency management personnel can make better informed decisions in a crisis. Operations Dashboard also provides an easy way to share information with other agencies without having to give them access to your editing map. A dashboard can be set up to show quick statistics and only the relevant information that needs to be shared with other agencies. This allows other agencies to quickly get the information they need. Operations dashboard also provides an easy to read interface that highlights the relevant information, giving the information in the map more context.
For more information on how Quartic Solutions is using ArcGIS Online applications to provide situational awareness in crisis management, contact Quartic Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org.