On June 30th and July 1st, over 60 people came together at Valtech's office with the aim of finding solutions to help ease homelessness in Manchester. After listening to guest speakers and a panel of experts who provided further understanding around the complexities of homelessness, 7 teams then proceeded to work on their ideas. Thirteen hours later, they presented their ideas to the room. Here is a summary of their solutions.
1. Team Trust - created a web-based reporting tool that allows people to flag concerns about individuals they may come across. The tool allows the user to input a brief description about the individual, which the authorities then use to follow up. As a location-based tool this application also has great potential for connecting with the CityVerve programme, for example, triggering a street light call where multiple incidents are flagged in one location.
2. Team Prevent - based on statistics the team designed a survey tool that allows individuals and those around them to drill down through a decision-tree, signposting them to relevant support services. The main point of this tool is for at-risk individuals to use it, in the hope of preventing them from becoming homeless.
3. Team "Stop the Spiral" - based on a concept similar to fostering and using the AirBnB model. Stop the Spiral challenges the assumption that people wouldn't give short-term support in their own homes by designing a vetting and matching service. By matching people who show compassion and empathy with individuals who are at risk of becoming homless, Stop the Spiral aims to place people in a caring environment with a support system. They also challenged the Government to consider this as an alternative to the Bedroom Tax model, where people are incentivised through tax breaks for giving up a spare room.
4. Team Win Win - looked at a lottery approach across all charities engaged in preventing and supporting the homeless. Based on solid data research, they identified the collective Twitter and Facebook following across the charities they'd heard about at the Hack to show the potential giving total. They then designed an ethical lottery app that could be used to encourage giving across that audience.
5. Team HackPack - identified the use of captive portals as a potential communications tool. When signing into free WiFi networks the login page could be used to promote key support services and charity details. There are many over the city, and they are widely used by those without broadband plans. Impressively, the team also built an affordable, mobile charging station that worked as a WiFi hotspot. This would allow people on the streets or in crisis to charge their phones, access free WiFi and see targeted information when signing up.
6. Team Rooph - designed a signposting solution for people to access key charity information, including contact information and opening times, using retail screens, kiosks and public information boards. They designed the interface and tested it with potential users, interviewing people on the streets, including those for whole English isn't their first language.
7. Dr Kim Foale and Dr Liz Calder - took a different approach and discussed how we need to hack the policy and networks at these events and not just the technical solutions. They mapped the complex landscape around the needs of a person and highlighted the political structures and organisations that can help, but who can also get in the way. Highlighting the positives and limitations of hack approaches, Kim shared some insights into how hackathons could become workathons.
It was inspiring to see so many people coming together and give their perspective on how we can ease the issue of homelessness. Thanks you to all those who attended either as a speaker or participant.
Thank you to Valtech, Sigma and Street Support for helping to organise the event, and to Love Pizza and Subway (Picadilly Plaza) for discounted catering.
If you would like to support the initiative to end Homelessness in Manchester, Street Support Network needs ongoing help. They currently need DotNet and front end developers to work on new features requested by homeless people and local organisations - volunteers, partnerships or part time freelance contracts considered. Help with UX, design, content and admin is also needed on an ad-hoc basis. They are also looking for tablet devices to borrow during MIF for Manchester Street Poem. If you are interested, please contact Viv at [email protected].
Photos by Jonah Ogbuneke
Tiwtter & Instagram @justjonah94