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A system streamlining on-the-ground distribution of homeless aid packages by thousands of volunteers
The Giving Spirit (TGS) and Handle with Care (HWC) are nonprofit organizations that provide aid to the homeless around the Los Angeles area by assembling and delivering survival kits (clothing, medicine, food, hygiene supplies).
First, current kit distribution is done in a completely arbitrary manner. Volunteers pick up kits and randomly visit different regions in LA to distribute them. This significantly hinders the efficiency of kit distribution and potential volunteer impact since there is no visibility into where and when deliveries are made.
Second, communication is currently performed in an ad hoc manner with walkie-talkies, text messages, and calls. There is no way to contact and coordinate volunteers at scale with current communication methods.
Working closely with The Giving Spirit and Handle with Care, we built an integrated digital solution to streamline on-the-ground distribution tracking, communication, and coordination.
In spring 2019, we built out the mobile application to solve the kit distribution problem. The app lets volunteers know in real time exactly which areas have been served and which areas are most in need – eliminating inefficiency and increasing the number of homeless assisted.
Volunteers first sign in through their phone with a user-friendly flow, skipping the usual hour of standing in line to check into the distribution event.
In the main map view, the deliveries feature allows volunteers to easily see where past kit deliveries have been made and drive to unserved areas.
When volunteers drive past a large cluster of homeless people but don't have enough kits on them, the requests feature lets volunteers request extra help, making sure that every homeless person gets the supplies they need.
Requests and deliveries can be easily added to the map in a few seconds.
In spring 2020, we tackled the communication problem by creating a web admin dashboard. The dashboard enables push notifications to coordinate large-scale volunteer movement. It also displays hour-by-hour, day-by-day views of deliveries and requests to let coordinators plan out which areas subsequent distribution events should target. Finally, the landmark feature allows coordinators to mark known locations of homeless activity, guiding new volunteers to more effective and efficient starting locations.
The web admin dashboard and client app have made it possible to scale the distribution process for TGS, HWC, and hopefully other similar organizations in the future. This integrated solution has the potential to streamline the distribution of over 1,500 kits per year through volunteer donation runs coordinated by The Giving Spirit and Handle with Care.
We look forward to bringing the infrastructure developed here to other geographic-based experiences – please reach out if you have a similar use case in mind.