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Data shows majority of shelter residents are local – Citizen

July 9, 2017

Early returns from a recently implemented database at the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter indicate a large percentage of clients are from Key West or nearby, not from far reaching locales as many think.

Six months of information gleaned from the shelter’s Apricot Social Solutions Database show more than half of shelter clients are local and a large percentage of those are recently homeless with obvious causes such as job loss and addiction, according to Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (which manages KOTS) Executive Director John Miller.

“We’re discovering that a huge majority of our new clients … are from Key West or very close by,” Miller said. “The people who are from Key West seem to be a little more newly homeless and with more readily identifiable problems.”

The challenge of finding a steady job and affordable housing in Key West, along with its built-in distractions, make the island a tough place to survive, frequently resulting in first time homelessness, according to Miller.

“(KOTS clients are) already here, they’re just not homeless yet,” he said.

The Apricot Social Solutions Database gathers a wide range of data to supplement the general information requested on the shelter’s intake forms, including duration of homelessness, income sources, barriers to treatment and which services are requested, according to Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (which manages KOTS) Executive Director John Miller.

The data helps case managers and the shelter identify which services the clients need, as well as which short and long-term clients require extra attention. As time goes by and more data is collected, it will be used to shape the programs offered at the shelter, Miller said.

“We can start to use that to help design our service modules and what kinds of services we need to be offering,” he said. “Down the road, not too far off, we’ll be able to look at things over time and that’s very important.”

KOTS Outreach currently assists clients with obtaining identification, case management information referrals and employment assistance including purchasing work clothes or other necessities for the newly employed, Miller said.

Miller, who has a background in information technology, programmed the database and uses recommendations from shelter staff to add categories and questions.

“I can add anything we need. It’s really, really user friendly,” he said.