City Council will ask staff next week to research whether a smart phone application could provide information for responders to find places to take homeless people for help.
Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price is sponsoring the agenda item for the Tuesday, Aug. 20 council meeting. The idea is to develop a Long Beach-specific mobile and web-based app that would provide real-time information about available beds at homeless shelters, detox centers, rehab centers and other places offering services for homeless people.
Similar smart phone apps are available today can guide people to parking spots. A California app company, Get Help, already is working with some cities to develop a similar system for available beds.
Price said in a release that such an app would be particularly helpful to the special Police and Fire response teams Long Beach has created to better help homeless people. Other departments whose personnel deal directly with the homeless could benefit too.
"Sometimes that window where someone has a moment of clarity can be brief," Price said, "and if we are lucky enough to have an outreach officer reach out during that moment, we cannot miss that opportunity because the officer had to call around looking for somewhere that would admit the homeless individual right now, or risk the individual losing faith in the officer because they were not able to follow through quickly enough on the offer of services."
It takes an average of 17 contacts with a homeless person before they agree to seek help, Price said. While Long Beach has a wide array of services through the Health and Human Services Department's Multi-Service Center and the Continuum of Care network of nonprofits, that does little good unless homeless people connect with them.
“Technology like this can play a really amazing part in utilizing available resources efficiently," Price said. "…This web and mobile application-based technological approach to connecting individuals in need could be a game changer for the city."
Price has three cosponsors on the item — Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, Sixth District Councilman Dee Andrews and Eighth District Councilman Al Austin. The council meeting begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, in the new Bob Foster Civic Chambers, 411 W. Ocean Blvd.