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New system looks to use data to combat homelessness in the Denver metro area

Posted at 8:46 PM, Nov 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-10 22:55:12-05

DENVER — Combatting homelessness is not an easy task, but there's hope data from a recently-launched program based on technology can provide a boost.

“People come in, and it’s voluntary, and they’re willing to give us their information,” said Matt Meyer, the executive director of Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.

MDHI distributes scan cards to those individuals experiencing homelessness. The cards hold information about the individual, so when they seek out services, like shelters, they're able to get faster, more reliable assistance, according to Meyer.

The scan cards also provide crucial information that MDHI uses to understand what programs are working and what's not.

“Right now, it’s very difficult for us to make a statement about whether or not something's working or not working out on a large level. We can talk about it anecdotally, but we can’t talk about it in terms of the overall system,” Meyer said.

This summer, they got the five major shelters in the metro area on board.

“It’s an opportunity were working with other service providers in the community to try to understand the needs of the population,” said Mike Sinnett of Catholic Charities.

With the shelters coming on board, it has tripled the number of people involved. And with the colder months ahead, the data will be helpful organizations like MDHI.

“We’re anxious to see when the weather does shift on us what it will do for demand,” added Sinnett.

Similar programs in other cities are already being used throughout the country.

“We’re seeing a lot of movement in those committees in terms of the level of homelessness. It has had a measurable impact,” Meyer said.

The hope is it can do the same in the Denver area.

“We’re committed to using data to affect change for a community,” Meyer added.

Denver Rescue Mission was unavailable to appear on camera for the story but sent this statement to Denver7 about the program:

Denver Rescue Mission sees multiple benefits from the Colorado Homeless Management Information System scan card, not only for our organization, but more importantly for the guests we serve. Already, we have connected 300 veterans with Veteran Affairs services. This new system will help us collaborate more efficiently with other service agencies. It will better equip Mission staff with tasks like connecting veterans with veteran agencies, coordinating housing and benefits and collecting emergency contact information.

Denver Rescue Mission guests won’t have to carry multiple cards and won’t be asked the same information at every agency they visit. Their basic information will already be filled in when they go to other providers in Denver.

Looking ahead, we will be able to coordinate services and lessen the duplication of case management between providers. It will also have the ability to show which shelters have capacities each night for our guests to get a bed— something that is vital during the winter.
Ashley Irwin, Denver Rescue Mission Director of Impact and Hospitality.