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Homeless services agency replaces paper-based system with hand-held wireless devices

The apartment is small, but everything works. A school is five blocks away. This might sound like a typical real estate transaction, except the prospective tenants have been homeless for weeks. And the apartment is much more than a place to live, it’s a return to some semblance of normalcy.

“We want to help people in shelter return to a life of self-sufficiency and independence as quickly as possible,” said Robert V. Hess, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) (link resides outside of

Since April 2007, more than 13,500 leases have been signed by pople exiting shelters and returning to permanent housing.

IBM and Global Bay Mobile Technologies (US) have worked together with the agency to replace a cumbersome paper process with mobile handheld devices that relay real-time information. As a result, the number of housing inspections the DHS conducts every month has increased 57 percent.

In the past, field inspectors had to complete a multi-step process, which could take several days. Inspectors would have to fill out forms both in the field and at the office before the data was ready to be entered into the DHS system.

DHS field inspectors now share real-time data about the status of potential permanent residences with DHS staff, provider shelter staff, clients, landlords and brokers. Through the device, inspectors can answer a standardized checklist of questions, sketch a basic layout of the apartment, take a photograph or video of the space that serves as documentation of the original condition and take guided steps to comply with federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards.

New York City Daily Homeless Census for January 14, 2010. 8798 - Families with children, 1301 - Adult families, 7242 - Single adults, 37292 - Total individuals. Source: NYC Department of Homeless Services.


Community Preservation Corporation: When housing is more than shelter

In Brooklyn, a vacant three-story walk-up is converted into six condominium units. In Syracuse, New York, the Little Italy section thrives again as a destination with restaurants, stores and residential apartments. In Newark, New Jersey, almost 400 low-income housing opportunities add momentum to its renaissance as a business and arts city.

These are just three examples of how the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) (link resides outside of, an IBM client, is helping to revitalize neighborhoods through a holistic, pragmatic combination of financing, technical expertise and public incentives.

CPC was founded during New York City's economic crisis in the mid-1970s. Their mission? To stem the spread of abandonment that began to overtake many neighborhoods. Thirty-five years later, they have grown to a 143-person non-profit mortgage company with US$1.2 billion in assets and 300+ multi-family closings per year. The Corporation recently rolled out a billion-dollar green financing initiative that is expected to be fulfilled by 2013.

What began as a business managed manually by spread sheets soon needed a new IT approach. "CPC works with over 90 partners from commercial banks, savings institutions, insurance companies and government agencies…We had a pressing need to modernize our information management system," said John McCarthy, executive vice president of CPC.

IBM worked with CPC to develop support and enhancement processes for a first-of-its- kind application to manage construction loans, advances, investor relations, reporting and internal controls, automating numerous processes formerly dispersed throughout the company.

In addition, CPC also outsourced its technology infrastructure to IBM data centers including e-mail, virtual servers, maintenance, security and system administration, a significant milestone for a small company. In less than a year, CPC has realized significant cost savings, reduced power usage, increased efficiency and improved quality of management.

Affordable housing is an economic engine. It has a strong multiplier effect: benefitting and individual families and the broader community, providing jobs, encouraging stability and investment - CPC Annual Report, 2008.