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Hackathon For The Homeless

William Thomson


Glasgow Digital Inclusion

There are game jams and data hacks aplenty, but few of them start with the lofty goal of ending homelessness and rough sleeping in Scotland. William Thomson, the director of Gallus Events explains how the hack hopes to help – and how you can participate.

An innovative hackathon will take place in Glasgow across the 13th to 15th April to support homelessness organisations to end homelessness and rough sleeping right across Scotland. I was stirred into action by a front page article and investigation by the Sunday Herald last year. The headline read “one person dies on the streets every week in Glasgow”.

But what can an event organiser based in Catalonia do about the homeless situation 1000 miles away in his home city? Not much. What can anyone really do? It’s probably something you are asking yourself now.

What Can I Do?

I’d like to help, but what can I do? Well, a Hackathon turns that ‘not much’ into a huge amount. We just need a hundred people or so to donate their ‘not much’, in the form of their time and their particular skills, to make a real difference. Scotland’s digital community could make a huge positive impact by supporting the event.
So far the Hackathon has financial and moral support from Glasgow based IT recruitment company HRC, without which the event would have struggled to get off the ground. HRC bought into it straight away and that allowed us to approach homelessness organisations with something concrete.
Since then we have had many of Scotland’s homeless organisations get in touch with us, including Social Bite, Invisible Cities and the Glasgow Homelessness Network, most with the same question, “what is a hackathon?”

To help: hack

I have been following the lifecycle of hackathons for years and despite running over 700 events this is the first Hackathon I’ve organised.

The key element of a hackathon is that practical solutions are created over the weekend and in many cases can be implemented by the Monday morning. I couldn’t think of a better format to help the homelessness organisations do something immediately after the event.

The format of the Hackathon will see organisations pitch their projects to the participants on the Friday evening. Over the weekend terms are formed (attendees can drop in and out of teams if committing the whole weekend is too much of a stretch) to create practical solutions.

First Five Projects

The organisers have a list of exceptionally interesting projects for IT and Tech professionals to get their teeth into. Projects including developing a risk assessment app to be used by street volunteers, digitally mapping homeless services in Glasgow and Edinburgh and a Scotland wide common monitoring and recording database framework. You can see the first five projects here.

Dr Alan Whitelaw, Clinical Director, Emergency Department, QEUH will be involved in the Hackathon, said: “If there’s a way we could target “new” acute homelessness we could really be on to something. 3rd sector, NHS/Gov supported groups are key. The hackathon approach is utter genius”

Hackathon for the Homeless

At the end of 48 hrs participants could have developed ways to help, assist or alleviate the shocking homeless situation across Scotland. The focus on actions rather than words provide a real focus for the participants. It cuts out the fat and gets straight to the heart of the issue. And with such a shocking situation in our major cities, the time for talking is surely over.
To join as an individual or a team you can book on the event website. If you are interested in sponsoring or offering a prize to help support the winning hacks post Hackathon please get in touch with me:

William Thomson, Director, Gallus Events

William Thomson

Director, Gallus Events

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