Policy

A Single-Source-Of-Truth For Homelessness Solutions-Seekers

Ivory Innovations' House Party podcast features an up-close and personal conversation with Tiffany Pang, Chief Executive Officer at Outreach Grid, on how she focuses on combating homelessness with data.

Policy

A Single-Source-Of-Truth For Homelessness Solutions-Seekers

Ivory Innovations' House Party podcast features an up-close and personal conversation with Tiffany Pang, Chief Executive Officer at Outreach Grid, on how she focuses on combating homelessness with data.

December 8th, 2023
A Single-Source-Of-Truth For Homelessness Solutions-Seekers
SHARE:
SHARE:

You could spend all day every day on the whys of American housing's sorest spot: Homelessness.

For an audience whose livelihoods and professional life missions center on efforts to build affordably and profitably for America's homeownership-track households, the nation's homelessness crisis – for practical purposes – resides in an alternate universe.

Still, among those souls who strive in their livelihoods and professional life missions to get beyond whys of homelessness, and take the need to find solutions personally, and apply fresh bold brilliance to them, we find a bonfire of inspiration.

Plus, who's to say whether those solutions – in essence, an improved match-up between people who need and want a place to live and a sustainable capability to provide that – developed for unhoused people may not also have applications or offer a model for low-income housing or even market-rate homes for rent or purchase?

Let's look at the backdrop. A recent New Yorker story recap by editor David Remnick lays out the magnitude of the crisis and the depth of its effects here:

About 1.4 million people in the United States end up in homeless shelters every year, many thousands more living on the street. You could fill the city of San Diego with the unhoused. The problem seems gigantic, tragic, and intractable ... By one estimate, addressing the country’s homelessness problem would cost about ten billion dollars. But [New Yorker contributor Jennifer] Egan argues that the figure pales in comparison with what we’re spending on the problem in the form of emergency medical care, emergency shelter, and other piecemeal solutions. 'No one wants to see that line item in a budget, but we are already spending it in all of these diffuse ways,' she says. 'We are hemorrhaging money at this problem.'”

Broadly, supportive housing that blends safe and decent shelter, health and addiction-related services, job training and opportunity, social services, and education, qualifies as a first-principle solution focus.

Getting there, however, takes bridging a chasm that separates many domains, and stalls or thwarts the flow of focus, resources, and strategies from their origin to the point of pain, the frontlines of homelessness and the people there trying, one person at a time, to alter the outcome ... literally, the street.

Those domains include political will, social recognition, local community activation, capital investment, real estate development and construction, etc., and there's often a debilitating gap separating all of those centers of capability and commitment from their goal – to help get unhoused people into places to live.

Hear this episode of Ivory Innovations' House Party.

Enter Outreach Grid co-founders Tiffany Pang, CEO, and John Cadengo, CTO, whose technology-powered brainchild offers a "common data" platform for every participant in every domain focused on homelessness solutions to work off the same real-time "single-source-of-truth" playbook.

As Pang describes the seven-year-young and growing initiative:

Outreach Grid today is a data platform that enables agencies to work together on homelessness information, from first contact to housing. It's all on one platform and one language at the point of work. This combines two key ideas. One is that we enable service agencies to collect data at the point of work. Second, is the idea of agencies working together to combat homelessness together, rather than one single agency or one single city dealing with it. It's a collective group of agencies. Some of them deal with outreach, and some of them deal with shelter operations. and still others deal with housing navigation, case management, etc. There's a whole spectrum of this system of care, and we want these agencies to work together. The idea of point-of-work is we enable service agencies to collect data at the point of work."

Tiffany Pang has a fascinating conversation on the very personal origin story of Outreach Grid with Ivory Innovations Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer Jenna Louie, in the seventh episode of Ivory Innovations' House Party podcast. Pang and Louie trace the evolution of Outreach Grid from its civ-tech start, to where it has grown in operational resilience, learning and discovery, and impact making it easier for service providers, case managers, homeless shelters, and other stakeholders to support better outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.

Outreach Grid gained recognition as a 2023 finalist for the Ivory Prize in Affordable Housing Innovation.

We'd written:

Over the past six years, OG has created innovative, integrated tools for frontline service workers to collect data at the point of work and for community leaders to visualize their system of care from first contact to housing in real-time. During the pandemic, OG implemented the first-of-its-kind shelter bed reservations to give shelter operators the tools to manage their shelter beds and upcoming reservations in real-time, saving communities thousands of hours in coordination time."

Here are a few excerpted quotes from Tiffany Pang from her conversation with Ivory's Jenna Louie.

Origin Story

I was born and raised in San Francisco to a single immigrant mother. San Francisco, 20 or 30 years ago looks very different from what it is today. I went to high school there. Then I went to college on the East Coast. And when I came back to San Francisco, a lot had changed.
New startups came in, and when that new tech startup thing started happening in San Francisco, the cost of rent, food, cost-of-living in general started going up. People were falling through the cracks. Homelessness was becoming more of an issue, as I was, you know, living in San Francisco as an adult and getting a job at a tech startup Instacart. In the backdrop of all of it was San Francisco, and on my commute to work. I would see more people living on the street. This was not a thing, not a thing that I had seen before when I was growing up in the city. I thought, ‘what is happening in my hometown?’
I had done night school to learn to program and code; I worked my way up to do little software projects. And I want it to take the skills that I had to in working in a startup and like doing software engineering, to see if I can help the city address homelessness. What started me off on this track was I started going to like civic tech programs like Code for America, where we were trying to understand civic tech problems that can be solved with engineering. This was back in 2015 and 2016. Through these kinds of meetups and groups, I got connected with then-Mayor Ed Lee's office in San Francisco, where they were starting this new initiative called Startup and Residents. They connected upstarts and startup engineers with cities that had very technical problems, and they were able to outline the technical challenges that they wanted to solve. One of them was homelessness.
I asked my co-founder [John Cadengo], who was my boyfriend at the time, [now fiance, and we're gonna get married this year], 'Is this something interesting to you? Is this a problem that we want to spend the next 10 or 20 years of our lives trying to solve this intractable problem of homelessness? And we both said, 'Yeah.'"

Hear the House Party episode here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

MORE IN Policy

25 Finalists Recognized For Ivory Innovations' Annual Prize

Innovators demonstrated capability and commitment to housing innovation with feasible, scalable, and ambitious approaches to critical challenges faced by builders, residents, and communities nationwide.


Energy-Efficient Tax Credit Changes Are Coming: Ready Or Not?

To comply with adjustments to the 45L New Energy Efficient Home tax credits, here’s what homebuilders need to know now.


A Deep, Elegant, Beautiful Proptech For Affordable Housing Options

Housing Navigator Massachusetts founder Jennifer Gilbert joins Ivory Innovations director of Strategy and Operations Hannah Gable in a "How I Built This"-like conversation in this episode of House Party.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

MORE IN Policy

25 Finalists Recognized For Ivory Innovations' Annual Prize

Innovators demonstrated capability and commitment to housing innovation with feasible, scalable, and ambitious approaches to critical challenges faced by builders, residents, and communities nationwide.


Energy-Efficient Tax Credit Changes Are Coming: Ready Or Not?

To comply with adjustments to the 45L New Energy Efficient Home tax credits, here’s what homebuilders need to know now.


A Deep, Elegant, Beautiful Proptech For Affordable Housing Options

Housing Navigator Massachusetts founder Jennifer Gilbert joins Ivory Innovations director of Strategy and Operations Hannah Gable in a "How I Built This"-like conversation in this episode of House Party.