New Jersey goes to biometrics for homeless services management


New Jersey is moving to biometrics for managing part of its homeless services programs. Fulcrum Biometrics worked with New Jersey Business Systems’ Eyemetric division to develop and deploy a new, biometrically-enabled homeless services management system based on the FbF modular development framework. The work with Bergen County provided a test case to expand the system throughout the rest of the state.

The new Biometrics Data Management System (BDMS) allowed the Bergen County, New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) to monitor who was receiving homeless services by requiring a fingerprint scan as individuals come into meal and shelter access points. “Bergen County wanted to create an unduplicated account of any services provided at the their homeless health and wellness center,” explains Ray Bolling, President of Eyemetric Identity Systems which worked with Fulcrum Biometric on the project in an interview with CivSource. “Before this, individuals would sign in by hand on a clipboard, and DHS staff had no way to track who was receiving services or how often.”

Eyemetric has a history of working with the state of New Jersey, and also provides iris scanning technology to several New Jersey schools through the T-PASS program. That program requires parents picking up their children to be positively identified through a scan before entering the building.

The web-based fingerprinting system used by Bergen County DHS enrolls users when they enter a shelter for the first time, and allows them to swipe through using a fingerprint scanner on subsequent entries. According to Bolling, there was little pushback from individuals when they were asked to enroll once they realized that it made it much faster to access services. Staff members were also able to free up hours trying to read handwritten sign-in forms, and focus on building and tracking success metrics for those using the system.

The system is not checked against any criminal or police databases so when users give their fingerprints they are only creating a unique record as they access services, but that record won’t be tracked across other parts of the government. With the system, DHS has been able to establish a more accurate account of the number of people in the system and the real demand for services. With this information, officials have been more effective in getting the state and federal funding they need for homelessness programs.

The system went live in 2010, and has provided a use case for state officials to phase a similar tracking system in for homeless services statewide. That program is expected to begin being phased in over the coming months.