AI Group To Develop Dallas Homeless Map

Map showing homeless camps
Map showing homeless camps | Image by Nomadik.ai/Instagram

A new artificial intelligence group is developing a map of homeless camps in Dallas, which its co-founder said will better equip local leaders to address the issue.

Nomadik was founded in January with a plan to “visualize the issue” of homelessness. The group, co-founded by Trevor Sorrells and Morgan Winters, used artificial intelligence to create a map of homelessness in Austin, and it has plans to develop similar maps in Dallas, San Antonio, and other communities.

“Our map is created using a mix of open-source and crowd-sourced data,” Sorrells told The Dallas Express. “We have an app we are currently beta testing with some partners that allows them to send us photos, videos, and text information such as inventories of camps or reports of events around the city.”

“Once we receive data from users, we process it with various machine learning models to pull out the information we need to both update our map as well as to make connections with other data sources, including observations sent to us from our website that anyone can use right now,” he continued.

The City currently appears to maintain a 311 Homeless Service Calls database with a map that tracks homeless service requests in a 30-day rolling window.

Sorrells said he hopes to see his group provide the necessary context on the issue of homelessness that could eventually drive positive policy decisions.

“We are a very new company, so we are still learning as well as making connections within our data streams to get a better handle on what is going on before we can make any real suggestions on best practices,” he told DX. “What we are doing is ingesting all of these data sources, having our models look for connections, and then trying to identify upstream inputs that can be tweaked to provide outsized downstream benefits. How far up the chain of cause and effect can we go so that we can make our dollars, time, and effort go further for the most disadvantaged in our communities?”

Council Member Cara Mendelsohn (District 12) said a map of Dallas’ homeless encampments will likely reveal troubling results.

“Looks like this group @DocumentingATX in #Austin is tracking approx 160 homeless encampments,” she tweeted earlier this month. “Last report from Dallas staff said there are close to 400. When an interactive map goes live in Dallas, I think we would learn the shocking truth of exactly how many homeless are in Dallas.”

Mark Melton, CEO of the nonprofit Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center, told Sarah Zubiate Bennett on The Dallas Express Podcast last year that he plans to launch a “one-stop-shop” homeless services initiative modeled after Haven for Hope in San Antonio. The “one-stop-shop” model has been credited with reducing unsheltered homelessness in San Antonio’s downtown area by roughly 77%.

Many Dallas residents registered their favor for such a model in a survey conducted by DX.

Polling also suggests an overwhelming majority of residents are concerned about homelessness, vagrancy, and panhandling in Dallas.

Sorrells said Nomadik aims to help communities raise awareness about how their cities can best treat the unique circumstances of homeless people.

“Our data-focused approach to the issue is a bottom-up approach where we recognize every single person is in this situation for unique reasons and, as such, requires unique attention,” he told DX. “And this thinking extends upwards where specific circumstances in camps exist for their own, also unique, reasons.”

“There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to homelessness, and by actually formulating a real-time situational awareness picture through democratizing outreach with our app, we can better understand what resources and processes work and which ones do not,” he added.

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