Homelessness is a serious issue that many people normally don't talk or think about. The trend is alarming and more people are becoming homeless due to gentrification, inflation and lack of jobs for less educated folks. It's a systematical failure in modern society that brings inequality because of lack of support for people in need. Here are some facts.
1. About half a million people are homeless in US.
2. 15% are chronically homeless.
3. About 10% of homeless population are veteran.
4. About half a million kids were homeless more than a week at some point last year.
Source: Social Solutions
On February 11th, I volunteered for homeless outreach for Don't Walk By initiative. Don't Walk By is an event where thousands of volunteers gather and provide hot meal, medical care, legal consultation, professional consultation and a safe place to sleep for homeless people in NYC. I've never had this experience before and I had a very little understanding about homelessness.
I walked around the blocks in East Harlem along with team of 8 people and engaged with numbers of homeless people. During this process, I noticed that it was actually challenging to locate homeless people and we didn't have useful tool to help homeless people more efficiently. After the outreach, I came back home and started to sketch some ideas.
The app's primary user set is volunteers who want to pin point the location of homeless people, provide shelters and hail a relief bus for homeless people with a tap of button. In addition, the app allows general public to leave a positive messages for homeless people and crowdfund homeless people's wish list with donation.
Volunteers then print out these messages and withdraw donation and give it back to homeless people during the outreach. The key factor to this service is a transparency and honesty of volunteers. Moreover, volunteers can hand out Amazon Dash like device where homeless people can send signals when they need medical attention. This can be done in NYC with city wide free wifi service, LinkNYC.