In alignment with federal funding structures, the housing and services to respond to homelessness are organized geographically into Continuums of Care (CoCs). The Bay Area has nine distinct CoCs, one for each county. People in need of housing and services are prioritized, housed, and supported within those geographies. Data about people is collected, analyzed, and reported by those same geographic boundaries.
When an individual experiencing homelessness moves from one part of the Bay Area to another, crossing a county line also means crossing the boundaries that define the Continuum of Care. If they are in need of services in their new location, they start from scratch. Their history with the system, their personal information, their contacts and case management, does not travel with them.
As a result, it is challenging to obtain an accurate picture of people experiencing homelessness in the Bay Area. Because the communities are siloed and do not share information across systems, individuals who travel across the Bay Area may be tracked in more than one system.
Looking at the data that is publicly available – across all nine counties in the Bay Area – can tell an important story about homelessness. It can highlight the commonalities and differences that exist throughout the entire region.