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LA County falling behind in efforts to house homeless vets, Feb data show

A sign reading 'Skid Row' is painted on a wall next to the Los Angeles Mission, September 22, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles' Skid Row contains one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States.
A sign reading 'Skid Row' is painted on a wall next to the Los Angeles Mission, September 22, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles' Skid Row contains one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States.
File photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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The city of L.A. is making some progress in its efforts to house the city's homeless veterans, according to new a new public dashboard of data on the city and county's homeless population.

L.A. County? Not so much. 

The data, collected from organizations that work with the homeless and published by the United Way's Home For Good campaign, seeks to benchmark and detail L.A.'s path to ending homelessness — with a focus on veteran and chronically homeless people. 

Chronic homeless are defined as those who've been homeless for at least a year or have found themselves without a home four times within a three year period, according to the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. 

The effort is part of a nationwide push to make good on an Obama administration pledge to house all the country's homeless veterans by December 2015. 

Los Angeles City: 

If it stays on its current course of housing an average 221 homeless additional veterans each month, the city will be left with just over 600 left to house by the December deadline the administration has set. The estimate takes into account the number of vets who are likely to become homeless in the future, based on current trends, as part of its projection. 

The county is a little further off. 

Los Angeles County:

In order to meet their goal, they'd need to house an 607 homeless vets each month. Currently, they're able to find housing for an average of just 344 additional people each month, and that's down from last month. 

The projections are just a part of the information offered on the site. Included also are monthly tallies of all those housed to date and a breakdown of where homeless in L.A. currently live by their service districts.  

Do-gooder geeks rejoice: A data dashboard on LA homelessness

Michael Nailat, was one of the principal architects of the dashboard, along with fellow metrics-minded collaborators at the L.A. HAC (Homelessness Analysis Collaborative).

Nailat said the goal is to gather and simplify all the information toward answering a basic question all homeless services share: Are we on track to meet our overall goal? 

"The more overly designed and complex it gets, the less useful I think it is," Nailat said. "This is how many we need to house. This is how many we're housing now. That's all you really need to know."

Nailat is a program officer of United Way's Home For Good campaign. He said the data is gathered from a number of outlets that intersect with the homeless in the area. Principally, it's gathered from systems at the Veterans Administration, the Housing Authority, and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. 

"They're all kind of different systems that work on different levels," Nailat said. "They don't talk to each other, in other words. And I get to be the kind-of translator of it all and pull it all together into one dataset."

The information is used as a jumping-off point for monthly meetings between the different departments on how to speed up the process of finding homes for the city's most vulnerable. 

 "By having this data readily available, it presents an instant opportunity to say 'Okay. So what caused that number to be that number?" Nailat said. "And what can we actually do, tangibly, that'll change that trajectory?"

Nailat says he hopes at some point to be able to integrate information from other departments that regularly come into contact with homeless people, including police departments and local hospitals. That, he said, would give service providers a better understanding of how their efforts are affecting other public services.

"It's hard to get 100 percent of the data we want," he said. "But our goal is at least to encapsulate the largest swathes of what's happening."