It's beyond debate that homelessness is a pandemic problem across the world. Of the more than 636,000 adults that were homeless last year in the United States, over 67,000 of them were veterans. Great reward for serving your country, right?
Hoping to remedy this problem once and for all, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Joining Forces is trying to coax out some compassion from the tech-savvy and has created a competition for the nation's community of developers to create a free app that will help caregivers and caseworkers improve assistance to the homeless.
The competition, called Project REACH (Real-Time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless), is a challenge to developers to create a free and user-friendly web and Smartphone app to be used by volunteers and outreach workers who could provide current and up-to-date information about housing and shelter, health clinics, food banks, and other services available to the homeless. And in case compassion alone wasn't enough to ignite the engines of developers' philanthropy, there is also a cash reward of $10,000 for the first five finalists to successfully create an app that meets selection criteria. Once those five have been established, they will complete for the Grand Prize of $25,000 during a two-month phase of beta testing at a homeless shelter in New Jersey.
The VA hopes that by developing technology that will not only make it easier for people to assist the homeless but also allow them to provide valuable and immediate information to them, the initiative will put within reach the Obama Administration's goal of eradicating veteran homelessness by 2015.
Rules for the competition can be found at the website for Project REACH and the winners will be announced on November 9, 2012.
I must say, the VA's initiative is a more determined, sophisticated, and effective way to assist the homeless than by, say, callously turning homeless people into computer accessories.