Greater Cincinnati social worker Rachael Winters and Northern Kentucky University students Justin Hill and Brittney Kane have developed an app that is designed to get homeless people the help they need and off the streets.
Street Reach is now available for both android and ios devices. It’s based on a similar app that’s been successful in the United Kingdom called Street Link.
Winters worked with Strategies To End Homelessness and CEO Kevin Finn. He says, "The new Street Reach app gives any citizen the ability to be the eyes and ears of the homeless service system and be able to notify if somebody is sleeping outside."
Simply check a "locate me" button on your phone and it finds the address where the person is standing and then put in more details including sex, race and clothing. It does not require a name or conversation.
Victoria Finn likes the idea. The 20-year, not related to Kevin Finn, was homeless, living under a bridge for two years, but now has an apartment after making a connection with an outreach worker. "I really lost hope after my first six months of being homeless and I didn’t get any help until about a year later when Ryan found me-Ryan Hall-and he wouldn’t give up on me. He would find me, make me fill out paperwork. He would spend the entire day looking for me, for me to sign something to get into housing and I still didn’t believe it until I was in my apartment and it literally saved my life, it did.”
Ryan Hall, who helped Victoria, is a homeless youth case manager at the Lighthouse Sheakley Center for Youth in Mt. Auburn. Hall’s program and three others in Hamilton County help the homeless, but don’t get to many outlying areas and that is where the app could help.
“We do know that homelessness is expanding and increasing in suburban areas. Sometimes we need some tipoffs as to who is homeless and where we can find individuals who are needing our services," says Hall.
The services vary, according to Kevin Finn.
“So what a street outreach worker might do when they meet with someone is try to connect them to mental health services or try to connect them with drug and alcohol treatment services and a sort of obvious one is to try to convince them to come into a shelter, which is a much safer environment for someone.”
Winters has been in California to see if there is national interest. In order to track the homeless on a national scale there has to be a data base built and that will cost $25,000.