A smartphone app developed in Scotland aims to be the first point of help for individuals facing homelessness. The ‘I Need Help’ button could provide immediate help for people in crisis by geo-locating them once the button is pushed, and directing them to the nearest help point. These assistance centres could include local authorities, homelessness support or third sector help.
The app was unveiled by Shelter Scotland to coincide with World Homelessness Week, held between the 9th and 15th October this year. According to Shelter Scotland, the idea follows a weekend-long hackathon held last year, which saw the idea for a ‘help button’ win the selection. Funding was then secured through Comic Relief for development, testing and rollout of the app. The button now also features prominently on the Shelter Scotland homepage.
Once pressed, the button functions by asking targeted questions towards the individual, in order to lead them to the exact information they need, based on their current location. It has also been designed open-source, meaning that third-sector and not-for-profit organisations can integrate themselves into the service, offering their own information if they can provide it.
Conrad Rossouw, Digital Manager at Shelter Scotland, stressed the urgency of the app’s creation. Rossouw said: “We know that for some of the people who make the more than 800,000 unique web visits a year to our online advice pages, they are in a state of deep distress and need help right there and then – which isn’t always immediately available. This tool will get them to the right information they need as quickly as possible – for example the address and phone number for their local council’s homelessness service.”
Rossouw added: “By making ‘I Need Help’ an open-source tool, it means other organisations are free to adapt and use its features to design tools that can help their clients. If needed, we can help them do that.”
To find out more about the service or how they can get involved with the development of the tool, click here.