Monday, September 29, 2014

A Solution To Homelessness Using Technology (aka Homebook)


I have had an idea for quite some time and I would like to share it with you. For many years I drove to work and each day would get stopped by the same stop light at the top of the hill. Each morning there would always be someone standing there with a sign describing their situation and that anything helped. As I drove into work each and every day I always thought there had to be a better way to address these issues. My old boss Mr. Cook always said, do not complain unless you have a solution, and don't be surprised if you become the owner of that solution if it is a good one. 

So here comes my idea for Facebook for those in need, I call it HomeBook. The plan for this web and mobile program would be to sign up families and individuals in need. They would go to a center who was trained to identify individuals who truly needed assistance. These workers would put the necessary information into the web application. The individuals would then be issued an id card and number which would tie into their profile on the site: 


Now that we have the information in the computer we can begin helping. Each id would be assigned a bank account. This account would be funded by donations made by people visiting the website. People could simply visit the site, put in their zip code (or let the browser do it with location services) and up comes those in your community in need. The website would also work on mobile devices and allow both reviewing of profiles and donations. If that person now wants to stand on the corner asking for help, they now can put a url on that piece of cardboard. The person in their car could simply hold up their phone, snap a picture, and visit the url later, or, they could visit the website from their mobile device with a smart and intuitive interface, allowing them to quickly enter in the id.

This system would then connect you with those you have helped. You could continue to watch progress, see how the money was spent whether it be on housing, education, child resources, etc. 

The big benefit today of Facebook is allowing us to connect and participate in peoples lives we care about. Why can't we connect and participate in the lives of those who need our help the most?

So now we have identified the problem and what we might be able to do to solve it... now where is this system going to come from, how will it be managed, how will we make sure there isn't corruption, how do we facilitate distribution of funds... these are all questions I do not have an answer. I know using Google App Engine for the back end, some jQuery and JSP pages, a credit card processor, and banking api's are a great start but there is a large amount of work that would be needed to pull this off. 

Here is my proposal, I need help talking through these points, talking about this idea, starting a discussion... Is this a smart idea... does it make sense... do we think it would work? 

What do you think?

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