Even in 2020, not everyone understands the full scope of homelessness: what it means to be homeless, the factors that cause it, and the measures communities take to address and assist their most vulnerable populations.
It’s on that last point that Bitfocus works tirelessly. Since 2003, the company has been helping communities—more than 75 nationwide, including seven of the 10 with the highest number of people experiencing homelessness—use technology, analysis, and policy to improve their systems of care. With Bitfocus’ Software as a Service (SaaS), Clarity Human Services, these communities can streamline their data and connect homeless individuals to the most effective services and resources available to them. The outcomes are more than improved processes and better organization—they’re life-enhancing.
Recently, Bitfocus Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Ugai, appeared on Grow For Good™, a podcast hosted by Morey Creative Studios CEO and Founder Jed Morey that introduces listeners to business leaders who have grown their companies by doing good things, to shine more light on the industry and provide information on how Bitfocus tackles one of society’s most pressing issues.
Ugai follows a distinguished list of Grow For Good™ guests that includes Brian Halligan (CEO & Co-Founder, HubSpot), Will Butler (VP of Communications, Be My Eyes), Emma Grose (Co-Founder, MABLE brush | COO, HAY! Straws), Laura Kraber (Founder, We Are Fluide), and David Heath (Co-Founder, Bombas) among others.
Morey and Ugai discussed a range of topics including Bitfocus’ approach to technology, the communities the company serves, and the critical role Homeless Management Information Systems (HMISs) have played during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Listen to the episode, "The Human Side of SaaS with Bitfocus' Jeff Ugai," on Spotify below or on your preferred podcast provider here.
We’ve pulled some of Ugai’s key quotes, edited for clarity and consistency, to share with you.
On Bitfocus’ hands-on approach to supporting their software in certain communities:
We're there, shoulder to shoulder, in community meetings, trying to figure out how to place people from the streets or encampments all the way into housing. And so it's in those communities like Nevada, the Bay Area, (and) Seattle that we really, I think, see the best opportunity to be able to understand how that community is trying to address housing instability, and to be able to match those technological solutions that we can offer as a vendor in that SaaS space with the provider needs that are actually going to get someone closer to that house.
On HMISs transforming from mere tracking systems to comprehensive client care and coordination programs:
What's been particularly exciting for us in this industry over the past several years is working with a number of customers and the industry more broadly, and see that transform to more of a client care and coordination platform, as you see with electronic healthcare records in the healthcare field or any other kind of enterprise case management solution here. And that's really transformed the role that Clarity has in our communities from being something you're just using to tick the boxes (and) make sure your funders are aware of the good work you're doing to something that really transforms how you're interacting with the clients that you're working with.
On integrating Clarity Human Services software with other systems of care to better serve homeless populations:
One of the areas that we're hoping that Clarity will evolve is to become really a true platform for homeless data, right? So we don't think that we're ever going to be the best healthcare system of care. We're not going to be the best, you know, food bank software, necessarily, for some small providers. But I think for those records that really address them with house stability in homelessness, having a single system of truth there, they can really connect well with all those other related systems is where we see our advantage. And I think those communities that are using our software most successfully really have developed some nice deep integrations with the other best of breed software.
On establishing trust with homeless individuals, who may otherwise be hesitant about sharing information, to get them the support and care they need:
The best information that we're using to be able to prioritize someone for housing, be able to determine where they're going to fit in a pretty scarce housing inventory for a lot of communities, depends in a lot of ways on how willing they are to be open and honest with the individuals that they're talking with. First and foremost, it comes by being honest and setting clear expectations with everyone. One of the things that we've found a lot of success within some of our communities is that they're sharing the screen with them (in the field), showing them what they're putting in, and explaining why and how they're collecting information, and also being upfront about the realistic things to expect from it.
On the impact of coronavirus on homeless populations and Bitfocus’ efforts to get them in stabilized situations:
You know, on one front, homeless service providers largely are in dense institutional settings often: a large number of people in small areas, even if it’s an encampment or unsheltered situation. It's a dangerous environment, period, for a pandemic or any type of contagion to be spreading through...The positive side, though, is the pandemic has brought a lot of additional funding and resources that are targeted broadly at helping communities address the pandemic, but can be uniquely applied to this population, to not only help them have better outcomes in terms of COVID-19, but hopefully in terms of their long term housing and stability there. And so simply being able to kind of use this as an opportunity to get people along that path to a more stable situation has been the focus of the field right now.