The challenge is to to build something useful and accessible, either for homeless people themselves, for the professionals who assist them, or for members of the public. It can be built for web, mobile or other platform. The field is wide open: you can be as creative as you wish in your solution. If you’re looking for inspiration, read some of the user needs below…

Lets talk user needs

People affected by homelessness want…
− To know what services exist for them (especially outside of day-centre hours)
− Advice before they become homeless, or advice when they are newly homeless
− To be able to showcase their creativity: for example art and creative writing
− To access education and training materials, because they are from a variety of backgrounds (older generation, English may not be first language, social barriers to communication) which make it difficult to use services that already exist

The public want…
− To improve their understanding of homelessness
− A channel to ‘do something’ when they see a homeless person and want to help, e.g. alert social services to someone sleeping rough, enable them to donate to a nearby shelter etc

Service providers (charities, local gov) want…
− To be able to create a sense of community among homeless people they work with
− To raise awareness of homelessness in the public, and bust myths
− To be able to improve the delivery of the ‘No Second Night Out’ policy in which they try to reach people on their first night on the streets, to help them before they become locked in a cycle of homelessness
− To help homeless people to keep their donated phones and computers because they can be easily stolen or pawned

Views from some stakeholders

Westminster City Council

Rough sleepers represent one of the most socially excluded groups in British society. Tackling the problems associated with street homelessness demand much more than a roof. Self respect, inclusion and a sense of being a valued member of the community are essential ingredients to giving a genuine hand up and not a hand out. For an individual to feel included they need to be enabled into the digital world to access and to own IT equipment and to partake in all the opportunities, freedoms and options this provides.

SHP

My needs from SHP are:

A way of enabling our clients to be inspired and motivated to use digital technology and to learn how to use it in a cost effective way – access, hardware, training, support to continue learning after initial courses/classes.
A way of using digital technology to enhance services and the support that people can get in dealing with their multiplicity of needs/issues – an interactive information portal.

The other really big issue for me is how we as a group of voluntary organisations can work together on some of these initiative to the benefit of all our clients and the public – rather than competing to be first at the market place – which the current competitive tendering approach is really fostering much more than collaborative working.

Homeless Link

Some of our key objectives are:
To offer people a means to act when they see a rough sleeper:
- To ensure services take action
- To inform people of what is offered to rough sleepers locally

The Connection at St Martins

A team of people at The Connection have been developing a text based information sharing tool call ur_MSG (Your Message). The project is about engaging our homeless clients through their interests and needs, then providing them with relevant and appropriate streams of information in the form of specific free text messages sent via a web-based interface. We want to develop this project, and also incorporate new ideas for our clients to report/review their experiences of services.

Please see our short video: