San Jose mayor touts new dashboard as step to end homelessness

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan has promised transparency and accountability on major city issues, including homelessness.

The city recently launched a new dashboard that contains data on San Jose's homless population, designed to hold leaders accountable amid efforts to reduce the number of unhoused residents. 

Only in the third month of his first term, Mayor Matt Mahan, has seen the homeless crisis grow into a Goliath, visible from street corners, parks, and sidewalks.

San Jose statistics show the city has 6,000 unhoused residents, with the vast majority live outdoors.

"Let’s try to reduce the number of homeless deaths, the number of people on the streets. And get people where they need to go," said Pastor Scott Wagers, a South Bay homeless advocate.

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The new dashboard provides information on three main data points – programs, results, and funding.

"I’d like us to be very explicit about objective measures of success, such as ending street homelessness, and getting to zero people living outside and in unmanaged conditions," said Mayor Mahan. "And then measure the performance and strategy that we are funding to get to that goal."

Mahan said the dashboard currently gathers data, but will be upgraded and improved every few months.

He hopes to glean actionable data to help drive city policy moving forward.

"It’s very difficult to apply business practices to a government organization," said Dr. Patricia Crouse, a University of New Haven political scientist. "He’s from the business world and sometimes that's not a benefit for a politician."

Crouse said the path forward for Mahan could present a political challenge, if measurable success isn't reached.

"With this kind of transparency, when you fail, it’s a very public fail. And that can be used by opponents," said Crouse.

Mahan has just two years before re-election, as San Jose is coming into line with the presidential election cycle.

Time is short politically and in real terms on the street.

"The question is where’s it going and how quickly? And will it really make a dent? So my feeling is that, it could," said Wagers.

Mahan says greater transparency is worth the political risk as he tries to move the metrics with all eyes watching.

"This is a starting place. We’re just making sure that we’re regularly reporting out on our progress," said Mahan.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv.