Shelter Access For Everyone
Some screenshots of the Seattle S.A.F.E. app
One of the tent cities that spring up as a result of the homelessness problem
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
We first encountered the homelessness problem 2 years ago, when we were participating in a competition called Project Citizen. In this competition, we needed to analyze a local community problem and then form a policy proposal to fix it. We tackled Affordable Housing, and during this process, we ran across the homelessness aspect of it, which was created largely due to the extreme lack of affordable housing in the Greater Seattle Area. This is where we first realized how big of a problem Homelessness is, but at the time, we couldn't focus on it because of the competition. This was back when the Seattle mayor had first declared a state of emergency. Fast forward two years, we decided to finally do something about the problem and created Seattle S.A.F.E.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
In 2016, Seattle entered a state of emergency over homelessness. We are joining forces in the fight against homelessness in the Greater Seattle Area. $40 million annually goes to homeless services, but the problem is worse than ever before. To help these services get the most out of what's put into them, we started Seattle S.A.F.E. Seattle's homelessness epidemic needs all the possible attention, help, and focus within our community.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
We created an initiative to help combat homelessness: Seattle S.A.F.E. It's a solution with two parts: an application and a setup we refer to as tablet interfaces (discussed in question 7). We're always developing and refining the application for the express purpose of giving homeless people easy access to vital information like available shelters and maps. The app includes an integrated Google Map of the Seattle area, with the nearest shelters and your current location. Users can find the shelter closest to them, letting them get to a warm place with a roof over their head as quickly as possible. For those looking for a particular shelter, we handpicked over 100 of Seattle's homeless shelters based on their reliability. We put these shelters into a database accessible from within the app that included the shelters' addresses, operating hours, and phone numbers: all the vital information you might need. The app allows you to sort the database with a variety of different filters, such as type of shelter (transitional housing, day center, women's shelter, etc.) and city (Seattle, Redmond, Kirkland, etc.), allowing users of the app to find the homeless shelter that's right for them.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
Our project is aimed towards the audiences of homeless people themselves as well as those who chose to help those who are homeless. The use of the app we made goes as follows:
The user opens the app, having the option to look on the map for shelters around them or go directly to the database. If they open the map first, it displays their location and the location of every shelter in the database, so they can find the one suiting them. They can then go to the database, select their shelter, and it will display all the information about it. This includes the type of shelter (24/7, day shelter, transitional housing, women's shelter, etc.), phone number, and hours. In the database, users can use a variety of filters to search for a certain type or location of shelter, so they can find the one right for them. The user can then proceed to their shelter, and receive the help they need.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
The app is an easy-to-use Seattle homeless service locator. It's free on Google Play, making it easily accessible. Websites that let you search shelter databases exist, but the app is set apart by its centralized solution, with a simple design, a customizable filter system, and Google Maps integration. Our app lets users find details about the service that meets their needs. Our plans for the initiative expand far beyond what's there now: we plan to make a system of live shelter updates, and a job network, making the app the most comprehensive online homeless help service in Seattle.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Seattle S.A.F.E is available for free on the Android app store for anyone who wishes to download it. We are continuously working on improving the app, adding more features and information, for the benefit of our users. While we have been working on the app for a while, it only reached the app store very recently, so there's not much data to collect right now. Once some time has passed, we can easily monitor the difference we are making by reviewing the usage of the app as well as the number of downloads. Later, when we expand into tablet wall interfaces (more information in question 7), we can easily set them up so that they monitor usage and thus our overall impact.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
Our four ideas for taking our project to the next level are placing tablets in secure wall enclosures (which we're calling "tablet interfaces") around the city with our app on them (to further increase the range of our project), a possible share space within the app, like LinkedIn, but dedicated to connecting homeless people with entry level jobs, expanding the app to include a database/map of addiction recovery clinics, and connecting with various homeless shelters and providing the ability to update shelter availability in real-time. These four expansions are meant to not just give the homeless population guidance to the local shelters and support groups, but improve their overall condition as well.
(see attached for more details)
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
Future support for this project can be applied to the several core expansions. The most ambitious, which would require some seed money and T-Mobile support would be to provide the data-enabled tablet interfaces: anchored tablets that would provide our application to homeless people without mobile devices. As we elaborated on earlier, this would greatly improve our reach and overall effect on the problem. Additional ideas requiring more resources would generally be centered on spreading the word about our application and its benefits to make sure we reach everyone we can, so we can make as large of a positive impact as possible.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
We sent out a survey to many of our peers asking them how willing they would be to help with events benefiting the homeless in the future, and the overwhelming majority of them agreed (about 93%), so we'd be able to mobilize more people who are willing to help. These volunteers could help us spread awareness and gather even more volunteers, and also help us set up the tablet interfaces. Another of our ideas for potential partnerships is with the mental health/addiction clinics in the Greater Seattle Area. As we mentioned in question 7, a large percentage of homeless people suffer from substance addiction and seeing as our initiative is to help the homeless population, it's a natural outcome. Partnering with the clinics could bring new opportunities to individuals suffering from addiction, and we could also raise awareness about the problems facing the homeless.
How did you hear about this challenge?