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In the US; homelessness is unfortunately not a new issue, but it is a crisis that has been growing steadily for decades. There are many factors contributing to the problem – lack of affordable housing and wage inequality that affects the ability of people to live and work in the same place.

Fast forward to 2021; the pandemic that has so far claimed over 400,000 lives since the first case was found in January 2020. Although, in the first wave the homeless population appeared to have been largely unaffected by Covid-19 ; the number of people and families that are now experiencing homelessness across the country has been steadily rising this year. 

All Chicago has been working with the homeless population since the early 1970’s, but in the last few years the organization has been asked to take an even more active role due to the accelerating level of people needing their support and needing shelter. 

Based on data released in 2020; an estimated 76,998 people experienced homelessness in Chicago throughout 2018. This number is already expected to be much higher at present, and with an estimated 46 active shelters in Chicago (Homeless Shelter Directory), there are still not enough beds to accommodate the growing homeless population. The pandemic has, unfortunately,  forced many people for a variety of reasons, including the economic impact of the pandemic, onto the streets.

Despite a sizable Government grant, All Chicago, (an initiative started by Norman H. Stone in 1973 to help families in need) was still processing applications manually until this past summer. 

They looked to Property Inspect to help them streamline applications to make the process shorter, by adding technology to the process. 

Before Property Inspect like most cities; All Chicago’s processing of homeless applications was labour intensive – involving putting ads into the City website asking landlords to rent their homes to those in need. 

However, even if landlords were willing to look beyond the perceived stigmatism that is still associated with housing of homeless people; the actual time taken to get the various documentation processed was just too long. Time is precious when people are faced with living on the streets or in shelters. 

In order to tackle the issue of homelesness; The HUD Exchange is an online platform for providing program information, guidance, services, and tools to HUD’s community partners, including state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, Continuums of Care (CoCs), Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), tribes, and partners of these organizations.

Part of the HUD funding process includes standardised inspections of the property, but even before this is organised; All Chicago needs the correct documentation in place to be able to allocate funding. Once a property was identified, it had been taking as much as 90 days to move a property through the manual systems. With hand-written notes and individual pictures to take and store; this was a very protracted process.

Property Inspect was asked to help solve this issue with their inspection app and custom templates designed around the HUD process, these included several innovative options:

  • enable the landlord to carry out a self inspection via a simple to use template including adding date/time referenced pictures  
  • enable the inspector to attend the property and complete the required template fields, add pictorial evidence and action points 
  • ability to assign actions for issues to be identified and then assigned for work to be completed on the property prior to the tenant taking up occupation 

With inspectors and landlords able to rethink and take ownership of the Inspection processes; instead of the months long property ‘onboarding’ process Has been cut in half and effectively streamlined. This has resulted in saving weeks of administration with an average of just 30 days to complete the documentation. An extremely beneficial feature of the app is the ability to create a live inspection – with virtual viewings now the norm; tenants can move in quicker than ever before.

Ray Costello; Property Inspect US commented;

“We have calculated that, on average, $1,000 in labor has been saved when using the app to speed up the process. This saving can then be fed back into the program which then creates a ‘positive snowball effect’ and helps ensure that vital resources and time are used efficiently and not wasted”.

Since the successful launch of the All Chicago project the City of Baltimore has also become involved after hearing about the success of the new partnership.

With 58 Shelters for homeless people including women and children using the Property Inspect app and software, Baltimore homeless officials have realised that the flexibility of the app means the applications don’t just have to stop there. They also employ the video option to showcase running of the taps in the property, recording the boiler or heating working (or not!) and videoing the testing of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and providing the L to evidence safety and compliance.

Utilizing the actions function to draw off a separate report; inspectors, landlords and property managers can provide contractors with a full list of tasks in order to carry out urgent or remedial work on the property again reducing the time the property is unavailable for use. 

Ray says: “ I have been amazed and totally bowled over by the enthusiasm and adoption rate of both the Baltimore initiative and All Chicago. The software is so simple that first time users are able to understand the process and get their inspections up and running in quick time”. 

With ongoing support and training available; the use of the app is quickly gathering pace as more and more projects and programs realise the potential it has to help homeless people and the moving process. But the functions of the app and desktop software don’t just stop at the rental property.

Baltimore has also been using the software to be able to identify available units, put them on hold so prospective tenants choose the home that best suits their needs. By utilizing the softwareas #taging option; the property can be viewed, saved, put on hold and or highlight the provider to provider easy to access user lists. 

As the new administration takes a look at HUD’s Rapid Re-housing programs and the state of homelessnees in the United States they have already allocated $2.5bn worth of grants to 6,500 organisations in an attempt to accelerate the processes. And despite the available funds to invest in more efficient and cost effective processes, up to 80% of these still organisations still use pen and paper for their inspection processes. 

Ray comments: “Data capture and efficient processes are vital to help tackle the crisis of homelessness across the 50 states and Puerto Rico. With 75+ inspectors already online at All Chicago and 20+ in Baltimore it is inevitable that technology will play a key role in the future of housing the homeless”. 

If you want to know about the software, app and how Property Inspect can save you time, money and improve your process contact:

Property Inspect – Professional Property Inspection Software made simple

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