Building Both Technology and Community to Address Homelessness in San Francisco

ShelterTech is currently a 50 member strong all-volunteer non-profit, bringing free wifi and other digital tools to the homeless community of San Francisco.

In November 2017, we won a grant from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to collaborate with the SF Bar Association’s Homeless Advocacy Project to digitize their bi-annual print-only resource guide consisting of hundreds of pages on housing, healthcare, job training, education, and other social services. AskDarcel.org, the new online resource guide, now has a database of over 700 organizations and 1100 services available to those in need in SF.

Our goal is to help solve some of the biggest technology challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness, including providing information to help individuals cope with homelessness and get on a path to housing.

To achieve this goal, ShelterTech has adopted the Open Referral format — to both facilitate AskDarcel’s internal resource directory information management and to enable their application to integrate with the broader ecosystem of health, human, and social services activities in the Bay Area including 2-1-1, government agency databases, and a new human services data sharing initiative being developed by Benetech. Our adoption of Open Referral, along with our commitment to open sourcing their projects, played an important role in their grant application with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. Continue reading

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Hacking on Link With Optimizely And Benetech

Open Referral went to San Francisco on Wednesday August 9th to participate in a social good hack-day at Optimizely. In collaboration with our partner Benetech, Open Referral set up as one of the social good projects that 20+ employees worked on for the day.

 

Overall, our team was strong in front-end web and mobile developers, so we decided to “forward engineer” Zendesk’s Link-SF application so that it can be deployed on any Open Referral-compatible API. […]

You can find the updated Link source code in our Github repository. If you want to run this app locally, you can save a file as `config.js`and follow the instructions on the setup page. Continue reading

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Open Referral in Oklahoma!

This is a guest post from Aaron Bean of Asemio. Welcome, Aaron!

We’re pleased to introduce the first iteration of the Oklahoma Open 2-1-1 project, which is leveraging the Ohana platform and the Open Referral format to make it easier for Oklahoma residents to find and share information about community resources that can help improve their lives.

This is just an initial demonstration of a major initiative that dates back several years. A wide range of stakeholders across many sectors in Tulsa and our surrounding region have been developing a shared assessment of the complex nature of our social problems, and we have recently coalesced around a common goal: to understand and reduce disparities in health outcomes by race, class, and gender through a holistic view of the various community systems that serve individuals and families. (See our whitepaper PDF here.)

Toward this goal, we seek to answer the question of how we can better align and integrate the various resources in our community that might help solve complex social problems. Continue reading

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Crisis Text Line: lives in the balance

This guest post is from Rebecca Kan, the head of referral services for Crisis Text Line.

 

CTLTexterImage2I’m not safe.
I have nowhere to sleep tonight.
I don’t recognize myself anymore, I need help.
I said no…was I raped?

Crisis Text Line is a free, 24/7 text service for people in crisis. By texting 741741, anyone in the US will be connected with a trained Crisis Counselor.

We have 1,500 Crisis Counselors who receive an intensive 34 hour training and go on to engage with an average of 4-8 texters per shift. Conversations range in severity with over two-thirds related to depression and suicide.

Since our launch in August 2013, we have exchanged nearly 20 million crisis messages.

It can be extremely helpful to simply provide a safe and supportive place for people to share what they’re going through. But often times, people need more specialized long-term help. This could range from talking through some next steps and coping skills to offering local resources for housing, treatment, rape kits, and more. Continue reading

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OpenCIOC: Exploring New Models for Sharing and Collaboration

Across Canada, OpenCIOC project software supports the work of hundreds of diverse community organizations, including community information providers and volunteer centres, local and provincial governments, 211 providers, mental health associations, health support networks/organizations, seniors’ support services, and many others – as well as millions of public users each year. … We’re so excited to now be participating in projects like Open Referral, both to contribute through sharing our collaboration and data exchange experiences in this sector, and because of the opportunity it provides to expand our users’ ability to collaborate with a wider community. Continue reading

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Making Complexity Friendly

Last year, SIMLab completed a project [discussed previously on this blog] with DC Public Library (DCPL) to find out how the library could deliver and maintain good information on social services in DC. Funded by the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund, this project sparked a prolonged investigation into how the American social safety net is constructed. What follows is a rundown of what we did. Continue reading

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San Francisco’s Open Referral: Getting out and Staying out

Every other year, the Reentry Council of San Francisco publishes Getting Out and Staying Out, a resource guide for people returning from prison and looking for help to get back on their feet. The Guide is more than 300 pages long, containing rich information about hundreds of health, human, and social services that are available to homecoming residents.

The Guide is distributed through the Reentry Council’s institutional network of courts, prisons, family support services, and beyond. It’s also available on their website as a PDF.

The Reentry Council estimates that it invests at least one month of staff time each year into the Guide’s production (through a combination of surveys, web research, and phone calls). Since 2007, they’ve managed the Guide’s content entirely within Microsoft Word. Continue reading

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Helping HelpSteps Step Forward

Conceived and built by a team at Boston Children’s Hospital, HelpSteps.com (formerly known as The Online Advocate) is designed to help individuals and families identify social service needs and connect to local organizations best suited to meet those needs. The database includes over 1,700 organizations in the greater Boston area, and is maintained through partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission’s Mayor’s Health Line. …

This summer, the HelpSteps team is adopting the Ohana API and the Open Referral format… Continue reading

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