The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires continuums of care (CoCs, federally funded organizations that oversee homeless services) to conduct point-in-time (PIT) homeless counts at the end of January. This is an annual one-day, unduplicated count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families across the U.S. In Connecticut, all CoCs conduct counts the same way at the same time, so that findings can be compared across communities and over years.
A low-cost mobile app that could be deployed by January 26th, the 2021 for CT’s unsheltered PIT homeless count.
With little more than a month between CCEH’s request for a mobile solution and the PIT date, we determined it wasn’t feasible to develop a mobile app for iOS and Android and publish it for download in such a short time. A different approach was needed.
We evaluated whether a progressive web app (PWA) could be a viable solution and concluded it could. A PWA is essentially a website that looks and behaves as if it’s a mobile app. PWAs are built to take advantage of native mobile device features, but they don’t require the user to visit an app store, make a purchase, and download software. Compared to a mobile app, they are easier and less costly to build, deploy and maintain.
The solution needed to store data locally on a device if an internet connection is not available where the unsheltered PIT survey is conducted. When a connection becomes available, the data should then flow securely to a server where it can be incorporated into dashboards, reports, and maps. A progressive web app is designed for this purpose.
The app also needed to the capability for administrators to click on a map to see PIT counts by city, county, ZIP code, census tract, or other variables. In addition, it needed to allow the administrators to find out how many surveys were conducted within a specific region and run a HUD PIT report for the selected locations. Lastly, each survey needed to be geotagged, date and time stamped, and include contact details of the person collecting the information. This would allow administrators to monitor counts in real-time and reach out to survey collectors if needed.
Novus delivered a tested, working solution to CCEH in time for the January 26th PIT count, along with short instructional videos they could post on the CCEH website for survey collectors to access.
Read more about the CCEH Point-in-Time count at https://cceh.org/pit/overview/