How West Sacramento Used Big Data Analytics to Tackle Homelessness
The City of West Sacramento, CA, used Zencity to analyze the community impact of different city initiatives dedicated to alleviating homelessness. It measured which initiatives were more effective, which elicited a more positive public response, and which changed resident sentiment around the impact of homelessness in the City. To learn more about the essential role data analytics is playing in bettering West Sacramento and the lives of all of its residents, read the case study.
The City was able to quantify the community impact of a number of different homelessness initiatives in parallel
The City understood which initiatives were more effective and better engaged the community
The City could plan and budget its future efforts based on positive public response
The City of West Sacramento, California, is home to just under 54,000 residents. In response to increasing public concern about homelessness in the City, it embarked on a comprehensive community study. They combined internal resources with the most current research on the subject to generate a “Homeless Action Plan.” This plan has served as the foundation for a series of strategic initiatives the City has been implementing over the course of a number of years to address homelessness. These initiatives, some of which have since been nationally recognized, include cleanup efforts, the use of a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) to provide homeless services to hard-to-reach encampments, a housing-first pilot project, a homeless-to-work project, launching a homeless encampment app, and more.
Measuring the Positive Community Impact of City Initiatives
One of the defining aspects of public spending by the City of West Sacramento is ensuring that certain types of expenditures deliver returns in the form of positive community impact. However, some community impacts are harder to measure than others. In the case of the City’s initiatives addressing homelessness, one of the main goals is to “reduce the community impacts of homelessness,” meaning not just alleviating homelessness at its roots, but also the effects homelessness has on the community as a whole. Developing an outcome-based measurement tool to evaluate this goal proved a difficult task because some of the key elements of the desired outcomes of the initiatives were more qualitative, such as residents’ perceptions of safety, attitudes towards the City’s efforts, and so forth. The challenge for West Sacramento was finding a way to measure specific outcomes of the strategic initiatives described above. In the fall of 2017, West Sacramento turned to Zencity to embark on a real-time and ongoing assessment of its residents’ feedback. They worked – and continue to work – with Zencity to measure the previously unmeasurable return of “positive community impact” from its work to alleviate homelessness.
The Zencity Solution
Over a six-month period, Zencity automatically aggregated thousands of city-wide, resident-generated data points from sources like social media, local news platforms, city
channels, and more. With the use of advanced AI, the data was categorized and sorted to analyze resident discourse and sentiment about homelessness. The City also tracked different strategic initiatives tackling homelessness and identified trends in the discussion. Zencity’s platform visualized the data and transformed it into actionable insights regarding the homelessness action plan, converting otherwise qualitative, hard-to-measure feedback into valuable, quantitative metrics.
Quantifying Qualitative Data
What West Sacramento Measured with AI
With Zencity’s data analytics, West Sacramento was able to better understand public perception and measure satisfaction levels in the City as they pertained to homelessness.
Analyzing the discourse of residents helped West Sacramento understand more than just the outputs of its efforts – such as the amount of waste collected from cleaning up encampments or whether or not the City was successfully reducing the number of homeless residents. Rather, Zencity’s metrics provided insight into the community impact of the City’s work and how residents felt about different issues pertaining to homelessness. Moreover, West Sacramento leveraged this data to improve communication with residents and increase engagement.
The Bottom Line
By tracking the sentiment and volume of interactions, city leaders could understand which of their initiatives were more effective – which elicited a more positive public response and which changed sentiment around the impact of homelessness. As West Sacramento tackles the physically and emotionally challenging work of alleviating homelessness, data analytics is playing an essential role in bettering the City and the lives of all of its residents.
Zencity allows us to track and measure community sentiment on key issues. These statistics help alert the City to emerging community concerns, and provide useful insights into the effectiveness of city programs.
Deputy City Manager, West Sacramento, CA