New app will help track Franklin County homeless

College students join to develop technology for the Community Shelter Board.

There may soon be a more efficient method to track Ohio’s homeless after JPMorgan Chase has its say. The first weekend of March, the bank held the “Code for Good Challenge” at its 2 million-square-foot Polaris campus.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, seven teams of 31 students had to race against time Saturday evening through Sunday to complete one task: design a new mobile app. This wouldn’t be just any new technology, but an app for tracking camps of homeless in Franklin County.

The “Code for Good Challenge” brings together aspiring college-age programmers to develop solutions for nonprofit organizations. This year’s beneficiary was the Community Shelter Board (CSB), an organization that oversees $12 million in funding for homelessness in Franklin County. Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio’s family and single men’s shelter and housing programs are some of the programs that receive support from the CSB.

“This could be a game-changer,” Michelle Heritage, the Shelter Board’s executive director, told The Columbus Dispatch. She explained that it could help the board increase its effectiveness and efficiency in helping the homeless.

As of now, when social workers look in on a homeless camp, they fill out a paper form detailing the visit, then pins are put into maps on a wall at the office. “Keeping information current is a challenge,” Heritage said.

However, the app that develops out of the challenge could bring all of that to an end. The technology will use a global-positioning system to automatically record locations. The social worker could also enter other information, like the number of homeless people at the location and whether there are children, pregnant women or ill people, the article said. Information could then be shared with other social-service agencies.

The winning team included two Ohio State University students and four from Miami University. One member, Charlie King, 23, of Dublin, is a junior at Ohio State University studying information science.

“Our group spent probably four, maybe five hours, just planning out our project,” King said in the article. “ And then we spent the rest of the time basically at our computers. It was actually kind of fun."

Within just a couple of months, the article wrote, JP Morgan Chase’s full-time programmers will take the best ideas from all the teams and incorporate them into a working mobile app to be given to the CSB, explained Srini Krish, head of information technology for the bank’s consumer division.

“The forward thinking is what matters,” Krish said.

Support Franklin County’s homeless.

If you’d like to contribute to Columbus’ homeless, consider donating your car, truck, motorcycle, boat or RV to Volunteers of America. Just fill out our online form or give us a call at 614-870-7500 for more information. We offer free same-day towing and you could even receive more for your car on your tax return as a charitable contribution than you would selling it on the market. With your automobile donation in Ohio, you are helping to sustain the life-changing programs and services our neighbors count on every day.