Life for homeless persons in the city is not getting easier and funding of their basic needs has gone beyond the capabilities of tax-driven efforts. A perspective that has perhaps not been explored as much is what role smartphones and mobile applications can play in assisting homeless people in urban areas?
Homeless people lack a mail address and their ability to be reached is connected to their mobile phone. Their mobile phone is used as their primary connection point and serves as a valuable tool for staying in touch with providers of temporary shelter, meals and activity centers. With the evolution of marketing and payment applications, their mobile phone could now become even more valuable.
Targeted coupons can be offered in exchange for free meals or free food purchases. The funding can come from participating stores or direct from ‘cityzens’ who want to support the homeless in their city. A digital contribution chain could reduce administration costs and increase the value of contributions reaching the people who need it most.
Proactive monitoring is a high-priority healthcare innovation for the growing elderly population. This technology can be adapted to support remote monitoring of health status for homeless as a step towards enhancing basic care. This is another area where tax-subsidized efforts are unlikely to be sufficient and where crowd-funding through targeted social responsibility campaigns can be created.
Staying social and active is vital for the homeless population. Having universal access to the billboard at the activity center might trigger the extra visit to the workshop, drama, painting, music or meeting opportunity being offered.
Here are my predictions for the importance of smartphones for homeless people in the cities:
– Access to a personal smartphone, and support for keeping it charged, is a vital enabler of a better life for homeless persons in the city.
– Targeted applications supporting the homeless and the poor have become a growing focus for private and company-sponsored social responsibility efforts in cities.
– The platform created by smartphones and mobile applications will mean small but important improvements for vulnerable social groups in cities.