Using AI to Tackle Homelessness
How Beaverton, OR, used AI to measure community support and engage residents to launch a Safe Parking pilot program
After the City of Beaverton, OR, banned car camping, a Safe Parking pilot program was proposed. The City had to align with residents and local businesses alike to roll out the new program. It faced the challenge of doing so in coordination with the community, and in particular with the cooperation of those neighborhoods most impacted - where the first Safe Parking pilot sites would be launched. By using AI and leveraging resident feedback data, the City prevailed and became the second city in the region to launch this innovative approach to assist its homeless population.
Zencity’s geo-location technology enabled Beaverton to understand neighborhood-specific concerns and respond with localized solutions and answers
Beaverton successfully launched its first Safe Parking pilot sites with the support of the community
The City was able to showcase to residents the way it listened to its community and integrated their feedback and ideas back into the City’s budgeting and planning
In the late summer of 2018, the City of Beaverton, Oregon, instituted a ban against car camping on its city streets in response to complaints by residents and local businesses. The ban gave rise to significant media and community attention, including proposals for alternative solutions for tackling homelessness in the City. One of the community-proposed solutions included Safe Parking, which is a program that gives homeless men and women living in their vehicles a designated, safe place to park as well as other services such as access to clean restroom facilities, storage space, and more. In November 2018, at the next opportunity available, the City put in a supplemental budgeting request to fund the project. By spring 2019, the City was ready to roll out its first Safe Parking pilot site, making the city-hosted location one of only two sites in the greater Portland metro region. The City was challenged to implement the program in coordination with the community, and in particular with the cooperation of those neighborhoods most impacted – where the first Safe Parking sites would be launched.
Getting the Community On Board
From the time when Beaverton secured funding for its Safe Parking pilot program in late 2018, all the way through the initial rollout of the first sites in spring 2019, the City was faced with the challenge of aligning with residents and local businesses. This challenge became even more complex when it came to specific neighborhoods where the proposed sites would be hosted.
The Zencity Platform
Zencity uses AI and big data to reinvent the way local governments make decisions. The platform helps cities understand their real needs and priorities by automatically gathering and analyzing thousands of feedback points from online and offline resident interactions – including social media, city hotlines, traditional news channels, and more. Zencity then distills reliable, actionable insights from this data to help local governments better prioritize resources, track performance, and connect with their communities. The City of Beaverton used Zencity to measure, understand, and address the community impact of the Safe Parking program generally, as well by specific city-neighborhood.
The City of Beaverton was already using Zencity to understand real-time, wide-spread community feedback and as a capacity-building tool. In the case of the Safe Parking program, it tracked three months of feedback data that related to the Safe Parking pilot to keep an ear to the ground and understand particular neighborhood concerns; engage with the community more effectively; and respond in a localized way. Zencity’s geo-location technology helped the city identify how different neighborhoods – like Central Beaverton where the first Safe Parking sites were being rolled out – were responding.
Putting the Data to Work
Using Data to Launch a Pilot Initiative with Community Support
With Zencity’s data analytics, Beaverton was able to launch a Safe Parking program with the support of its community by:
The City of Beaverton became one of the first two cities in the Portland-metro region to address homelessness by launching a Safe Parking program. The idea of such a program arose from Beaverton’s community itself after the City banned car camping. None the less, when it came to actually launching the first pilot sites, the City was faced with community resistance. With Zencity’s platform, the City learned the reasons for the resistance, and that different neighborhoods had different concerns. Moreover, the City learned that overall, despite some opposition particularly during council meetings, residents supported the new program. Beaverton used the data it garnered from Zencity to communicate and engage with residents more effectively, to address concerns by neighborhood, and to bolster support for the program. As a result, it was able to successfully pilot its first sites in the spring of 2019 with the community on board.
One thing we learned from Zencity is that not every neighborhood is the same. By using Zencity's geolocation technology, we're able to get a clear understanding of what's important to what community to help guide how we communicate with them and also bring to light what issues one community may be interested in over another.
Marketing Manager, Beaverton, OR