Help the Homeless? There’s an App for That
Just over a decade ago, Boston doctors began monitoring a population of 119 homeless people with health problems. The subjects’ average age was 47. Today roughly half of them are dead.
That toll is not atypical: a homeless person of any medical background is roughly four times more likely to die than a housed person of the same age. These deaths are often lonely, anonymous affairs. After being warehoused in a city coroner’s office for months, the body may be cremated and buried in a pauper’s field.
“Somebody dying on our streets—I think that’s as bad as it gets in America,” says Rebecca Kanis, director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a movement of more than a hundred community groups aiming to house most of the nation’s 110,000 chronically homeless by 2014. “We can do better than this.”
The campaign is introducing an unlikely tool to prevent these tragedies: a potentially life-saving mobile app being tested in several communities this summer. The “Homeless Connector” will eventually allow ordinary Americans on their way to class or home from work to identify the people most at risk of dying on the street, and to find them help.