Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Police to Test App That Links Homeless People to Crucial Services

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Police to Test App That Links Homeless People to Crucial Services

Article excerpt

Starting next month, some Pittsburgh police officers will have information at their fingertips to help homeless people.

The officers will be testing an app that is being designed to provide homeless people with immediate connection to services such as food or shelter.

The app, called BigBurgh, is coming to fruition through the efforts of the Homeless Children's Education Fund, which has raised most of the $150,000 needed for the two-year pilot for the project.

It is being designed by Robert Firth, president of Informing Design, who is donating his services to the effort.

The app will allow users to plug in their age and gender and use the phone's touch screen to find venues for access to shelter, food, a place to shower, medical help and other services.

It also allows users to note whether they are veterans, transgender or a family seeking services.

Although the Homeless Children Education Fund's goal was to create an app for homeless young adults, it will provide information on services for homeless people of all ages, said Joe Lagana, founder and CEO of HCEF.

The plan is for the app to be available to the public in May if the test by police works well.

When users click on the icons that represent the various services, they will get a list of available agencies and their locations and contact information. The available services will show up on a list, with the closest ones appearing at the top, Mr. Firth said.

The app also will include a link for "live street help," which will put users in touch with homeless outreach workers and volunteers who drive the streets at night to offer help to those in distress. Through that link, users will be able to start an immediate live chat with one of the outreach workers about their location and problem.

"I want this to be something that gets you what you need just when you need it," Mr. …

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