Tackling Homelessness Through Digital Transformation: Palm Beach County Partners with Dharma Platform to More Effectively Aid the Most Vulnerable

WASHINGTON - March 26, 2019 - PRLog -- This past January, Palm Beach County, Florida's annual survey of homeless persons went digital for the first time—a move that saved the county tens of thousands of hours in data collection and improved their outreach to vulnerable members of the community.

Using a mobile application built on Dharma Platform, Palm Beach County officials were able to more rapidly measure and gain insights into the homeless population in their county. Every year, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development requires all counties to conduct a Point-in-Time survey of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons. These collected data are used to inform local resource planning and state and federal funding.

But this year, instead of conducting these surveys using paper, spreadsheets, and manual data entry as usual, local volunteers and officials used Dharma Platform to create their own custom app that could function on any mobile device, offline or online, and would stream real-time data into a secure, privacy compliant cloud database. This digital transformation shortened their data collection time dramatically: from 2 weeks to a single day. And with these records digitally collected, officials could then analyze the data much more efficiently: their data management process shrank from more than 3 months to just 14 days. Officials also found the switch to new technology surprisingly easy. According to Keianna Pierre Louis "Local governments typically struggle with transitioning to new digital systems, but the partnership with Dharma Platform made it extremely easy to configure our own app, train our volunteers, and get data immediately into the hands of our team."

But Dharma Platform not only saved Palm Beach County officials' time, but it also allowed them to more quickly respond to the needs of homeless persons in their country. Louis reports, "Having results in days rather than months gave us tremendous insights into how we need to reallocate our resources to better serve our homeless population." This year's survey showed, for instance, that youth homelessness in the county increased for the third year in a row. While local officials were disappointed by this spike, they were grateful to more quickly learn about it. As Louis concluded, "[We] now can provide additional resources 3 months faster than last year. That means something."

Dharma Platform was founded on the belief that good data can not only transform the work of impact-first organizations, it can save lives. Backed by TPG's Rise Fund, Dharma Platform allows non-technical users to rapidly design and deploy scalable web and mobile applications to collect and analyze data—anywhere, anytime—and quickly make informed decisions based on real-time ground truth; even with no connectivity.

"Dharma Platform transforms 'small' data into impactful big data, allowing for quick action, especially for vulnerable populations like the Homeless," said Brian Dunlap of TPG. "Delivering measurable impact to address these types of societal challenges via leading technology is at the heart of the RISE fund."

From active conflict zones to humanitarian crises and natural disasters, Dharma Platform is being used around-the-world in the most demanding environments for technology. The life-changing work of Dharma Platform's users has been featured in Nature, National Geographic, TechCrunch, and Scientific American.

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