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One of this year’s Columbia Undergraduate Innovation Grant finalists, StreetMate, has been working on an app to make information about homeless shelters easily accessible to the New York City’s homeless population.
StreetMate made it into the finals of Commonbond Social Impact Award, a national competition for social start-ups that would provide mentorship and $10,000 in seed funding. Thanks to all who supported StreetMate with their votes!
Here is a little more about StreetMate
With over 70,000 men, women, and children living on the street, New York City has the country’s largest homeless populations. But paradoxically, it also has some of the countries’ emptiest homeless shelters. The director of the largest private shelter system in New York recently announced that he had trouble filling his 400 beds, with a full third empty on any given night. Even on the bleakest winter nights, people are sleeping on the streets while shelter beds remain empty.
One of the main reasons for this is just a lack of good information about shelters – the only databases that exist for homeless shelters are grossly inaccurate, infrequently updated, and impossible to navigate. Families trying to get help have to conquer a web of misinformation and complex bureaucracy just to find a safe place to sleep.
Recognizing that 70% of homeless individuals have smartphones, StreetMate created a webapp that allows anyone to find and access a shelter that’s guaranteed to accept them after just four simple questions. It provides unmatched accuracy in its recommendations, and does so through an interface that makes an otherwise intimidating and bureaucratic process intuitive. Simply put, StreetMate ensures that NYC’s homeless are only ever a few taps away from a warm bed.
StreetMate also hopes to expand to cities across the nation to provide information to as many homeless individuals as possible.