A nightmarish thunderstorm begins to roll in unexpectedly. Raymond, a man in his 50's put out onto the street due to overwhelming medical bills, wakes up suddenly in the middle of the night to a leaky sleeping bag. He quickly packs his belongings and tries to find shelter under a nearby tree. Raymond, and hundreds of millions of other men, women, and children in America are impacted by the tribulation of homelessness everyday. Unfortunately the resources that can help these individuals can't get to them in an efficient manner.
Our inspiration to this problem stems from the pain of not having a centralized system between all of the homeless agencies, thus making it extremely difficult to quickly direct these homeless individuals to a shelter. We all know that prevention is one of the best way to solve homelessness, so we started brainstorming solutions to prevention right away realizing that a solution to prevention helps lighten the burden on so many other problems.
What it does
Our application, first and foremost, maintains a single unified datastore to store information about the homeless agencies and the profiles of the homeless individuals that check in to these agencies. With this information, our application allows individuals to check in to any homeless shelter, thus keeping a real time data set of available beds at each of these shelters.
Our application provides a media outlet of profiles for those in need to get many small amounts of help from a large amount of people. Our profiles display dynamically created stories using the information already being collected about each individual, an optional personal message, and a picture of the individual. For a donor, we provide quick and easy ways to make a difference in someone's life while being able to reassure them of where their money will be used. Furthermore, donors will be able to go through a list of stories from individuals and subscribe to them, allowing them to keep up to date with them over time.
How we built it
We thought about social media's role in today's world and also about businesses that thrive off micro-transactions and combined them into something we like to call "Go Fund those in Need". Next, we knew we needed a centralized data collection and analysis system - allowing Shelter Center to be born. We started with a node back-end supported by a Couch database and decided to use React to build our UI. We broke off and had two focuses between the back-end services and the front-end UI. Once we had a good base of each to go off of, we started connecting the two and the product started coming to life. Our product has continued to evolve over the short period of time that we've had to work on it and it has tremendous potential to become even greater.
Challenges we ran into
One of our first ideas involved mobile text messaging as a means to communicate with our services. The API we wanted to use for this would want a publicly hosted website that we have not had time to put development efforts towards so far. I think each member of our team had to deal with project structure that was different that what we each were used to individually, so all of us had some adjustment to make in how we typically develop. Furthermore, all of us have been trained on steady, test-driven, agile development and the atmosphere and requirements of producing a product over the course of the hackathon put our skills to a new kind of test. The amount of data collected about an individual and about a shelter for a centralized system also posed a challenge for us. The time it takes to create forms and data requests for database storage from a coding stand-point surely took a toll on the time spent developing our solution. Lastly, the on-going process of developing a product over a weekend has definitely put our endurance to the test. If it wasn't for a quick night's sleep Friday night bringing in a spurt of inspiration for developing our solution, we doubt we would have had the energy to develop until the deadline.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Being our first hackathon, both as individuals and as a team, we are extremely proud of what we've accomplished. We've seen first-hand just how long software used to solve a complicated problem can take to develop. It is amazing how much can be developed by each team over such a short amount of time. We're proud of the centralized solution we've developed so far, and just how much of an impact our product could have in solving the problems presented at GlobalHackVI. It centralizes data for both individuals and agencies, provides easy to use preventative financial assistance, motivates those more fortunate to give a helping hand, and acts as a resource to provide real-time data to agencies to help those in need.
What we learned
We learned a lot about the challenges a homeless or at-risk person faces, not only in their day to day life, but also within the complex system trying to help them. Everything we have learned about their daily struggles has only motivated us futher to try to provide the best solution we could to the problems presented. We also gained additional knowledge and skills regarding our craft - software development. Through the shared knowledge of working together and overcoming the challenges we faced, we have all grown as developers and will keep looking forward to events like this one to broaden our skills at a rapid pace.
What's next for bullrocketfire-hacking-homelessness
The ability to provide a donor's receipt for tax-deductible contributions upon donating using our micro-transaction service is a sure next step in this product. A check-in/check-out system where an individual is given a card with a QR code on it which can then be scanned by agency employees to quickly identify an individual is also down the pipeline as a solution to effectively track data about those in need in order to help them resources faster in the ways they need most. A third next-step for our product is adding the ability to use our services using texts from mobile devices. This solution will help get help to those in need even whenever they may need it.