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County to explore creating regional database with names of homeless people

County staff members will study the feasibility of creating a database that names all homeless people in San Diego County following the Board of Supervisors’ unanimous support of the plan Tuesday.

The by-name list was proposed by Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer and Jim Desmond and was originally suggested by Interfaith Community Services President and CEO Greg Anglea, who said it would allow homeless service providers to share information, track the progress of individuals and gauge the success of programs more efficiently.

One of the few public speakers who opposed the list raised concerns about privacy and how the information would be used. Desmond has said names on the list would not be made public, and participation would be voluntary.

The city of San Diego already has by-name lists for veterans and youths as part of the national Built for Zero initiative, and Desmond noted that those were the only populations that had notably decreased in the most recent count of homeless people.

Lawson-Remer said the by-name list would provide better data than the annual count.

“We have these point-in-time counts that provide a snapshot of one moment in a point of time, but it doesn’t really tell us longitudinally who’s homeless and when and how long they stay homeless and if it’s the same people or how often they access different kinds of services,” she said.

“We don’t have any of this information,” she continued. “I found it daunting to even figure out how we craft appropriate interventions when we don’t have a by-name list.”

Supervisor Joel Anderson called the proposed list “brilliant” and said he would like it to include the entire county. Lawson-Remer said the county staff’s feasibility study, due within 90 days, would look at whether the list should be phased in or include all of the county at its inception.

Anglea called into the meeting to speak in support of the list, which he said would allow service providers to organize and access data in a more functional way and tailor resources to specific population.

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