San Diego has fallen behind other cities across the nation in an effort to house chronically homeless veterans, according to a national initiative called 25 Cities.
Now, the San Diego Housing Commission is aiming to house 1,000 chronically homeless veterans by March 1, 2017, along with a campaign launched by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer called “Housing Our Heroes.”
The federally-funded agency is trying to tackle the problem by going more high-tech with recent purchases of Mac Book Pros, Apple iPad tablets, Apple iWatches and Apple TVs.
Jose Corrales, an inspector for the San Diego Housing Commission, uses an iPad to conduct a move-in inspection at an El Cerrito area apartment slated for a tenant with a federal housing voucher.
Corrales enters the inspection information into the iPad where the data nearly automatically becomes available to future landlords and to housing assistants helping low-income or homeless tenants find shelter.
“It helps in that it speeds up the process, so right now, back in the office, they already know that it passed because my results have already gotten uploaded,” Corrales said. “It eliminates a lot of the paper shuffling, with for example, the report’s on this person’s desk, and it’s going somewhere else. Whereas now, at least, the result is done.”
Not everyone agrees with how the money is being spent.
Through the California Public Records Act, NBC 7 found the agency bought about $50,000 in Apple products between 2013 and 2016, including two Mac Book Pros, 22 iPads, two Apple TVs and two Apple Watches. The documents can be found and reviewed here.
Eddie Rivers, an Iraq war veteran who spent about seven years living on the streets, said the public agency buying the iWatches is a stretch.
“I could just imagine, you know, the iWatches for example could have fed how many people for this week? That could have clothed how many people this week? That could have provided shelter if only for a week; it’s better than one night on the street,” Rivers said. “I just wonder if the iWatch was not a special little perk for an executive position and I question the need for it.”
Kary Clements, the Housing Commission’s vice president of information technology, approved the purchases. He said his organization is constantly evaluating new products for efficiency.
About the iWatches, he said: “We’re evaluating those for mobility. So, it’s for anyone that’s on-the-go. So inspectors, maintenance people that are out doing things or executives that are constantly on-the-go, we were evaluating those to see how well they could do.”
Clements said the Housing Commission is not going to make any big purchases of iWatches because after evaluating them, they don't think the cost-value is there.
“We’re constantly evaluating technologies to be more productive so that we don’t spend as much money, so we do things more quickly, so we can just be more efficient,” Clements said.
The agency originally did not provide the records for the Apple iWatches to NBC 7. NBC 7 requested documents for all Apple product purchases, and the agency responded with purchase orders and invoices for Apple product purchases totaling more than $50,000, but left out the iWatches purchase.
After NBC7 followed up again, they provided the additional $1,289 invoice for two iWatches. A spokeswoman for the agency said the iWatches weren’t included in the original response because they weren’t bought through the typical procurement process and instead were purchased with someone’s credit card.