New radical transformation for providing services to San Francisco's homeless

San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has launched a new database called “ONE System” to help serve the homeless more efficiently.

HSH Director Jeff Kositsky said the database, which stands for the Online Navigation and Entry System, was implemented in May. He said the city was using 15 different databases and the information about clients was not being shared.

ONE System is a single database that will consolidate all that information so it is available for all users. It will also be utilized by more than 50 homeless outreach programs and organizations in the city.

“You can think of it as an air traffic control system,” Kositsky said. “We'll do an assessment, figure out what a person needs and help them land in the right place.”

The system will house a person’s information, their medical history, whether or not they have a disability, and if they’ve visited shelters in the past. It will help the city prioritize people based on their need and length of homelessness.

“This is going to allow us to help more people, more effectively,” he said.

Tramecia Garner, Associate Director for Housing and Residential Programs at Swords to Plowshares, said the streamlined system will avoid having someone re-tell their story of how they became homeless over and over to every agency they visit.

"We're re-traumatizing people by asking them to tell us their story, when they've just told provider A and now they're at provider D and they have to tell the exact same information,” Garner said.

Training for ONE System is currently underway as the database continues to be rolled out. Full implementation is expected next summer.

Kositsky knows no computer program will solve homelessness, but technology can help.

“This is a radical transformation of how we provide services here in San Francisco,” he added. “It's going to make the experience much better for the client, but also for the city it's going to help us make sure we are using our resources as effectively as possible.”

If someone does not want to provide their information or concerned about privacy, they will not be forced to enter ONE System. Kositsky said it is a protected database compliant with HIPPA regulations.