Helping the Homeless
It's sad but true that homelessness is a growing problem. Many of us are not sure how to react when we encounter a homeless person. Should we give money? Offer to buy a meal? Walk on by? Thanks to two researchers in Philadelphia, there's an app that might help you help homeless individuals.
Katie Dupere of Mashable explains how the StreetChange app works. Andrew Siegel and Dan Treglia, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, partnered with the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania to develop a mobile app to help individuals find the items and services they need. Homeless people that become StreetChange clients work with a caseworker and complete a survey to identify needed items - haircuts, jackets, toothbrushes, etc. They are then given a Bluetooth beacon. Individuals that want to help can download the StreetChange app. When they pass within range of a person holding one of the beacons, the app alerts them and provides information about the client and their "wish list". App users can then choose to donate as much or as little as they want to help. When enough funds have been donated, the client returns to pick up their item and hopefully, will meet again with their caseworker to discuss the next steps for meeting their long-term goals.
Supporting Web Links
- The StreetChange App Makes Helping Homeless Communities Ridiculously Simple
- The Handy Guide Is The Mobile App Helping Homeless Women
- Survey app helps Colorado city track homelessness
- Using Mobile Data Collection for the Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness in St. Louis
- How homeless Chicago teens are using social media to communicate
- Slideshow: Refugees’ Stories Told Through Their Smartphones
- Using Apps to Deliver Mental Health Services to Homeless Young Adults
- Hack for the Homeless: A Humanitarian Technology Hackathon
- No, iPhones Aren’t Luxury Items. They’re Economic Necessities
- 'Hackers' design smartphone app for homeless people in Springfield
- Homeless, not phoneless: The app saving society's forgotten tech users
- U.S. consumers now spend 5 hours per day on mobile devices
- This article and some of the others in the Supporting Web Links section should provide lots of topics for discussion. It’s a good opportunity to discuss the growing importance mobile devices have to many different groups in society. Consider showing the video that accompanies the article to the class to generate more discussion about the impact technology is having on the homeless population.
- Divide the class into small groups. Encourage each group to brainstorm ideas for apps that could be developed to help a specific segment of the population. Students might consider apps for individuals with special needs, veterans, homeless people, young children, senior citizens, or some other group for which they see a need. Each group should develop a brief presentation to showcase their idea or ideas.
- As an individual project, ask students to research one of the apps mentioned in one of the Supporting Web Links articles. Students should write a brief paper or develop a short presentation about the app and about how a similar app might be deployed in their own hometown.