The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority announced Wednesday that its staff has conducted about 36,000 wellness checks among unhoused people since April by using a mobile app, in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The “HOTSpot” app was developed by Akido Labs and allows LAHSA outreach teams to conduct short surveys with people experiencing homelessness to find out if they have symptoms of COVID-19, pre-existing health conditions, and their potential exposure risks.
Once answers are put into the app, they can then be tracked as data points that are tagged to the specific locations where outreach team members conducted the surveys.
“The HOTSpot app has been a valuable tool for our outreach workers as they work daily to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among our unsheltered neighbors,” LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said.
Between April 20 and Nov. 25, outreach teams conducted 35,946 surveys. In total, the app helped identify 225 homeless people who had coronavirus symptoms.
As of Oct. 26, the data collected by the app led to the administration of 304 COVID-19 tests and resulted in two dozen calls to 911, and 50 calls to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, LAHSA officials said.
The app has also helped outreach teams connect symptomatic clients directly to the DPH hotline to be triaged and quarantined, and LAHSA officials said the app shares data and locations of virus contraction with county health officials to deploy COVID-19 testing.
As of Friday, there were 2,439 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness, which LAHSA stated is “well below” projections from experts at the start of the pandemic.
In addition to helping track potential outbreaks in encampments, the app also helped immediately identify whether the people surveyed qualified to be sheltered via Project Roomkey, which uses hotel and motel rooms to house homeless people.
The program will be in operation for the next few months until it winds down and gives way to LAHSA’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan.
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