“We have so much rich data that the outreach workers are tracking,” Hark-Dietz said. “And it seems like an opportunity for us to look at that system and see if maybe there are tweaks we need to do in order to get a more accurate number.”
That’s exactly what’s happening in other places, said Beth Sandor, co-director of Built for Zero, a national organization that works with homeless officials in 84 communities, not including Los Angeles.
She contends the human and financial resources L.A. expends on the count would be better used to provide what she calls “actionable” information.
“The first question is, ‘Why we are collecting this information and what are we using it for?’” she said. Besides helping individuals, it’s “so we can know how we are doing in real time. Are all our investments and strategies adding up to help end homelessness?”
Built for Zero communities — including Jacksonville, Fla.; Maricopa County, Ariz.; and Denver — produce monthly reports tracking the number of homeless people in their areas, how many are new to the system, how many exited and whether they obtained housing or just disappeared.