Homelessness is a big problem, with a lot of murkiness lurking around the corner.
This study from the Journal of Social Distress and Homeless outlines usage of cell phones among the homeless community. In the study, 93.6% of respondents currently own a cell phone, but only 58.0% of respondents currently own a smartphone. That means that 38% of the homeless respondents in the study do not have the capabilities of advanced smart phone features or apps.
My friends from the Data Science for Social Good Fellowship and I decided to tackle this during the Seattle AngelHack by creating an SMS-based application that provides access to routing, emergency, mental health, sanitation, education, location, weather, and feedback services to vulnerable populations without wifi dependency. Basic Needs addresses immediate needs, connects vulnerable populations to their needs, and initiates a dialog between cities and vulnerable populations for social engagement and improvement.
By leveraging Twilio, HERE, AWS Services such as Amazon Lex Chatbot, and public datasources from The City of Seattle, our application responds in real-time to bring help better assist and connect the homeless population.
For our work in this area, we were awarded as the Seattle AngelHack HERE Challenge Winner. Check our our code here.