S.F. database to help homeless 

A new, multi-agency database will help The City track homeless people in its quest to get them off the streets and into permanent housing.

The system, introduced by The City’s Department of Public Health on Monday, will store a variety of updated records on homeless clients, including their histories, placements and medical treatments, from various case management teams throughout The City.

About 4,000 homeless people are in the database so far.

"Getting documents for 10 clients used to take me six weeks," said Maria Martinez, deputy director of Community Programs for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. "We’re creating the first database, probably nationwide, for all of these different sectors."

In January, The City sent hundreds of volunteers into the streets to count its homeless population, as required by the federal government every two years. The count is due out soon.

In 2005, there were 6,248 homeless people counted — down 28 percent from the previous count in 2002.

Some homeless advocate organizations, however, say the count methodology is flawed. Counters are not allowed to interact with people, instead making judgment calls based on appearance.

"There’s no way to know what a homeless person looks like," said Juan Prada, executive director of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. "They’ll produce a count of homeless people that will not reflect the number of homeless people. And they’ll still be homeless."


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