Inspiration

Most of the inspiration on building this HMIS came from listening to the folks at St. Patrick Center speak about their paint points, the scale of their operations and the struggle they have with their existing systems.

For the Payment engine though - the inspiration was one of us getting ripped off by a guy who we thought was homeless but turned out to be someone driving fancy cars. We decided to build a payment system that will let CoCs collect funds on behalf of the homeless and the homeless could collect them later in the form of food stamps, gift cards etc depending on the policy and rules at the CoC.

What it does

“Friend In Need” (FIN) is a end-to-end mobile platform ( iOS, Android, Web) that connects people who need help with not only service providers but with millions of volunteers around the world who believe in doing more with less. FIN is a mobile HMIS that aims at improving the efficiency of the intake process, facilitate the flow of client information between CoC members, helps find open beds in emergency shelters based on client's demographic and eases the electronic referrals and Data sharing between the CoC Members.

The app helps the homeless as well as "at-risk" individuals prevent homelessness by providing instant access to local jobs from indeed.com based on their skill-sets. The app integrates with the Open API by HUD.gov to connect clients and at-risk families with Government appointed HUD Agents.

A safe and secure integration with Stripe allows the app to let the general public help raise funds for families and individuals from anywhere in the world.

Features

  • Web, Mobile (iOS & Android) & Tablet - works on all platforms.
  • Find People who need help.
  • Quick and Easy Intake. Use the Phone's camera to record a video or take a picture.
  • Use GPS to capture client's co-ordinates if no address is available.
  • Push Notifications to track status of hand-off process, alerts, bed availability, new clients in the area, new jobs in the area etc.
  • Integration with Indeed.com Job's API to find real jobs in the area pertinent to the client's skills
  • Integration with HUD.GOV to find local HUD Agents that have access to information about HUD homes & HUD Funding.
  • Integration with Stripe an online payment system to build a tiny crowdfunding platform in the app.
  • Easy sharing capability to facilitate transfer of case and client history among the CoC Members.
  • Voting (rating) system for employers and other community members to appreciate the efforts of the clients and help clients build credibility.
  • Instant Chat feature that can be used to discuss a client's situation or leave them a review or comment.
  • Verification system allows CoCs to vet out new clients and their referrers before they can start accepting donations.
  • Angular Maps to find Open Shelters, Jobs and Local HUD Agents.
  • GPS Navigation and phone dialer to contact the referrer or the client directly (where applicable).

How we built it

We used the Ionic framework (AngularJS) and Firebase for the most part. Integration with Indeed.com was through their Free REST API. Found a pretty cool webservice from HUD.GOV that lets you find local HUD Agents with their contact info. [http://data.hud.gov/] We used Stripe to write a small payment engine to securely accept online payments through credit card. Our app makes heavy use of maps and navigation. Fortunately cordova has a ton of open-source plugins to ease the process.

Challenges we ran into

It's embarassing, but getting the wifi to work was the most serious challenge we encountered.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are glad that we had good help from St. Patrick Center after the opening ceremony in helping us understand the requirements and giving us a good sense of what the paint points at SPC and other CoCs were. That really helped us focus on 'Features' that were important to the business!

We were able to build a mobile platform that packs a lot of features. Fortunately we were able to quickly find some open source REST Apis that helped us integrate with these external systems.

Since its a mobile app we wanted to leverage the native features of a cell phone. Using the camera, GPS, dialer, navigation, photo album was fine but we ran into some issues with Push Notifications. Fortunately we finally got them to work, so that turned out well.

What we learned

We were somewhat amazed at the scale of operations at St. Patrick Center and other similar organizations. We also learned that we could actually build a tiny CRM system in 2 days!

What's next for Friend In Need

We'd like to work with utility and mortgage companies to see if there is a possibility of securely exposing data about their clients defaulting on payments that could help apps like FIN in doing some predictive analysis and finding patterns to pro-actively prevent the situation in these families from turning bad.

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