In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) outreach team members have used a new mobile app to conduct more than 36,000 wellness checks since April.
The “HOTSpot” app, developed specifically for LAHSA by Akido Labs, allows outreach team members to conduct short surveys with people experiencing homelessness to find out about any symptoms they may be experiencing, any pre-existing health conditions they may have, and potential exposure risks. Once answers are input into the app, they can then be tracked as data points that are tagged to the specific locations outreach team members conduct 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 the app’s launch on April 20 and November 25, outreach teams had conducted 35,946 surveys. In total, the app helped identify 225 people as symptomatic. As of October 26, the data collected by the app led to the administration of 304 COVID-19 tests, 911 called 24 times, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) being called 50 times.
Beyond data collection, the app has helped outreach teams connect symptomatic clients directly to the DPH Hotline so they can be triaged for a Quarantine and Isolation Unit, and it allows LAHSA to share symptomatic data and locations with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, which can quickly deploy a testing team to the area.
As of November 30, there were 2,439 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness. That is well below projections from experts at the start of the pandemic. HOTSpot is just one of several programs that have been successful at preventing widespread transmission of COVID-19 among unsheltered people experiencing homelessness, along with Project Roomkey and the city of LA’s emergency shelters and trailers.
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, whose sites will continue operation for the next few months as the program winds down and gives way to LAHSA’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan.