June 3, 2015

Apps for Homeless People

Small, low-cost changes can often yield significant results. Here’s what we mean: according to a recent Governing article, homelessness has been declining in several major cities, excluding Washington D.C., where it has grown by nearly 13%. The problem seems intractable, but those who work directly with homeless people are tackling the problem by using technologies many of us take for granted.

For example, the New York Times recently reported how some Silicon Valley tech companies have begun providing cell phones with internet access to nonprofits who distribute them to people likely to benefit from having them, including the homeless.  In some cases, the people receiving the phones pay for the phone service by performing tasks, like picking up trash, for the nonprofit providers.

The internet is the way we now do business, and without it, as the Times reports, it can be “difficult to find a home, apply for a job, sign up for classes, make homeless shelter reservations or find soup kitchens.”

Serving the information needs of low-income people is also stimulating economic development. For example, “Twitter is building a $3 million computer lab for low-income people, across the street from its Tenderloin headquarters,” according to the article.