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How data integration can help weave a stronger social safety net

Sonoma County partners with IBM to reduce homeless population by 9%

On winter nights, it can get surprisingly cold in Sonoma County. When the wind kicked up and Patricia saw neighborhood lights flickering in the distance, it seemed like these homes were 1,000 miles away. That’s when Patricia wrapped a blanket around herself, put another blanket over her son and wished, once again, that she could feel the warmth of a hearth instead of the deep chill of her current home — an old car.

Patricia and her son were among the many hundreds of unhoused people living in vehicles, campers, tents and other improvised shelters in Sonoma County – a place more widely known for natural beauty, wineries and affluence. However, like so many other communities in California, Sonoma County struggled with homelessness. At one time, it had the third highest rate of homelessness per capita of any county in the US.

The causes of homelessness are complex, including lack of affordable housing, poverty, mental illness and substance abuse, among other challenges. But homelessness in Sonoma County was complicated by additional factors. “We encountered a series of bludgeoning natural disasters. We’ve had five fires, then a series of floods, droughts and the pandemic,” says James Gore, District Supervisor from the 4th District of Sonoma County. “And underneath it all, we have a growing homelessness crisis.”

Over the years, Sonoma County devoted significant resources to addressing homelessness. “However, we were not seeing the outcomes we expected, with folks continuing to fall into homelessness, and not receive the long-term support they needed,” says Tina Rivera, Director of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services. “We needed to rethink, redesign, and come up with a better solution, a better service delivery for our clients, for people like Patricia and her son.”

Read this case study and find out how Sonoma County:

  • Reduced population of homeless people in Sonoma County by 9% from 2018 to 2020
  • Achieved a 35% housing placement rate for homeless people that is > 4x higher than the national placement rate

For any questions or requests contact your IBM Representative today.
Restlessly reinventing since 1911, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) has decades of experience strategically partnering with leading government organizations all over the globe, to help them build innovative technology solutions that accelerate the digital transformation of government.