Austin resident uses AI to track homeless camps as crisis skyrockets, millions spent

 An Austin resident who has been documenting the city's homelessness crisis has helped develop an AI interactive map to track encampments and communities.

Jamie Hammonds, who has been documenting the crisis through DASH Media, provided the data to Nomadic Group, which developed a full-featured AI map. The map clearly shows where homeless encampments are concentrated throughout the city.

Hammonds told Fox News Digital that the map "will become a tool that governments and nonprofits can use to predict patterns in homeless communities in the future."

Nomadic founders Trevor Sorrells and Morgan Winters told Fox News Digital that data on Austin's homeless population is either "fragmented or completely absent."

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As a result, he said, "there is a huge lack of understanding about what resources, interventions, and treatments are having an impact."

“We are applying our skill set in geospatial analysis and machine learning to shed light on this issue. We are trying to understand and contribute to this issue by enabling intelligent and effective outreach, giving everyone a voice and bringing attention to it.” We want to make it easier for everyone to do so. It's worth it," the two said in a joint statement.

The map was created after the city's homeless population skyrocketed in 2023. In January 2023, Austin's homeless population was less than 2,400, according to periodic calculations by Austin ECHO, a non-profit organization.

By October, it was estimated that about 6,600 people were experiencing homelessness in a single day in Austin or Travis County. This number accounts for the unsheltered homeless – those sleeping in tents, cars or abandoned buildings – and the unsheltered homeless – those sleeping in emergency shelters or "transitional housing".

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"I've been saying for the last year that the population count is low," Hammonds told Fox News Digital. "It's an outrage that after spending millions, the city is now acknowledging how big the problem has become. It's time to work on new policies."

City officials told Fox News Digital that Austin is "deeply focused on reducing homelessness." A city spokesperson said the city recently completed a homeless response review that resulted in the creation of a stand-alone homeless strategy office in December 2023.

The spokesperson said the city is "taking upcoming initiatives to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring."

The spokesperson said the city considers the AI-powered map "unreliable" because "the source data is not comprehensive and does not take into account factors contributing to migration or large camp cluster resolution."

"Again, we are focused on homelessness and we have invested significant resources in developing strategies to address it," a city spokesperson said. “We are beginning to see progress and with more permanent supportive housing in the pipeline and a commitment to work with our many community partners in this effort, we expect even more positive results in the near future.”

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