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Local Social Services

Riverside County Homeless Count, Part 1: Esri App Will Help Volunteers Connect With RivCo Homeless

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Danielle Fox
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“Where did you sleep last night,” Alejandra Larson asked her co-worker Cynthia Whittenberg.

“Um...on a bench over there at the park,” Whittenberg said.

The two colleagues, who work for Riverside’s Department of Social Services, were at a training, practicing interviewing people for the homeless Point in Time Count. Tomorrow, they’ll join nearly 800 volunteers across the county for the yearly tally of the homeless population.

Breaking their role-play, Whittenberg stressed to Larson that they’ll need to remember their cell phone chargers. The training room in the City of Riverside is a sea of smartphones. A few dozen volunteers are scrolling through a newly designed digital survey to interview their partners. For the first time, Riverside County is using a smartphone app developed by Esri to record all of the interviews.

Joshua Coda, the Point in Time Count trainer, said in the past, he passed out hundreds of paper packets for volunteers to fill out. Deciphering handwriting could be a bit of a pickle, and so was figuring out exactly where someone was located.

“So you could imagine handwriting an address, a cross street, how inaccurate that could be,” said Coda, “We're not really guessing, it's pretty exact on the geolocation for where they're conducting the survey, so you have a good accurate understanding of where homelessness is residing in your community.”

All you have to do is tap a map at the top of the survey to pinpoint your exact location. Coda thinks the user-friendliness of the app is part of the reason more people are signing up to volunteer this year.

“I’ve never seen this turnout. Sometimes it’s double, triple. This room has been full of people,” he said.

With one day until the count, around 800 people have signed up to volunteer. That’s nearly double the number of volunteers who showed up last year. Coda said most of his trainings have been at capacity.

“Whenever I see all the people in this room, all the field rooms I’ve been going to throughout the county, it’s really exciting for me,” he said. “Because I think of all the data that’s going to be collected, but more so that it will eventually lead to ending homelessness. That’s the most important point, right,” he said.

The Point in Time Count runs from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. If you’re participating, Coda is asking: please, remember to charge your cell phone.

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