Technology Helps City Increase Housing Inspections for Homeless by More Than Half, and Lease Signings by One Quarter

New York City Department of Homeless Services and IBM partner to develop mobile handheld devices that benefit New Yorkers in need

NEW YORK - 08 Oct 2009: The New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Global Bay Mobile Technologies today announced that the deployment of mobile handheld devices has led to an increase in the number of permanent housing inspections DHS conducts every month by 57 percent. Since the implementation of the handheld devices, DHS has improved its ability to transition homeless families and individuals into permanent housing. In turn, the number of leases signed through DHS' rental assistance program, Advantage New York, has increased, up 25 percent to date over the same time period last year. 

"We want to help people in shelter return to a life of self-sufficiency and independence as quickly as possible," said Robert V. Hess, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services. "Working with IBM and Global Bay, we developed a solution that takes significant strides toward that objective. The handheld device is the result of innovative and forward thinking, and is an example of good government." 

The technology works by eliminating the cumbersome paper-based process that checked the availability of apartments for homeless clients. Previously, field inspectors filled out paper forms both in the field and the office before returning the paperwork to the office for others to key in to a database at a later time, a multi-step process which could take up to several days. Using a mobile handheld electronic device in the field, DHS field inspectors now share real time data about the status of potential permanent residences with DHS staff, provider shelter staff, clients, landlords and brokers in a rapid manner. Inspectors easily can answer a standardized checklist of questions, sketch a basic layout of the apartment, take a photograph or video of the space that serves as documentation of the original condition and take guided steps to comply with federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards. The inspectors are able to collect data and send it to the DHS database from the field in less than an hour, reporting on the inspections and communicating needed repairs to landlords. More efficient inspections lead to more available apartments for clients, thus increasing placements. These benefits increase DHS accountability and transparency. 

"DoITT has pioneered the development of citywide contracts, enabling the City to leverage its considerable size and purchasing power to ensure significant cost savings for IT goods and services," said DoITT Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrave. "We're pleased that these efforts help improve DHS' ability to assist homeless families and improve the efficiency of its field operations." 

The handheld devices have been in use since April 2008. The $1 million invested to develop them will be recouped by November 2009, because of the faster inspection process, reduction in paper and ability of field investigators to receive their daily schedules through laptop computers instead of having to come into DHS' main office. 

As a contractor with the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) Handheld Technology Solutions Parent Contract, IBM worked with business partners including Global Bay, to address the challenge of homelessness in New York City. Using Global Bay's GBmobile platform, DHS was able to replace the existing paper process for identifying permanent residences for people experiencing homelessness with the mobile communications system. 

"Our vast experience providing breakthrough mobility solutions to the public sector enabled us to rapidly help DHS make important improvements in services to New Yorkers in need and move beyond a paper-based organization into a new era," said Jan Jackman, vice president of Global End User Services at IBM. "IBM is proud to partner with New York City to help speed the process for helping homeless families and individuals move into safe, permanent housing." 

"We needed to get apartments inspected and approved more efficiently," said Ken Zima, Chief Information Officer of DHS. "Knowing there were families in shelter who were so close to getting back to the community made our mobility needs a critical mission." 

The DHS Advantage New York program provides rental assistance to homeless families and individuals to help them return to permanent housing. Since Advantage New York began in April 2007, more than 13,500 leases have been signed by people exiting shelters and returning to permanent housing. 

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Using mobile electronic devices, DHS field inspectors now share real time data about the status of potential permanent residences with DHS staff, provider shelter staff, clients, landlords and brokers in a rapid manner

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