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Instant online help for people facing homelessness

Published: 10 October 2017

Instant online help for people facing homelessness

We've launched an online, mobile friendly ‘I Need Help’ button today – World Homelessness Day - aimed at providing immediate help for people in crisis and facing homelessness in Scotland.

When someone accesses the button via their mobile phone or online, the geo-positioning enabled tool points people to their nearest help point – such as their local authority housing/homelessness support team or third sector help.

‘I Need Help’ has been developed by Shelter Scotland following a weekend-long Hackathon last year which saw the idea of the help button win top spot.  Funding was then secured from Comic Relief to enable its development, testing and roll-out. The button now features prominently on our homepage at shelterscotland.org and emergency advice pages.

The button asks targeted questions that lead the user to the exact information they need based on their current location.

The button has also been designed using open-source technology which means it can be adapted by other third sector/not-for-profit organisations to offer their service users appropriate and timely support or information.

Conrad Rossouw, Digital Manager at Shelter Scotland, said:

“We know that for some of the people who make the more than 800,000 unique web visits a year to our online advice pages, they are in a state of deep distress and need help right there and then – which isn’t always immediately available. This tool will get them to the right information they need as quickly as possible – for example the address and phone number for their local council’s homelessness service.”

Conrad Rossouw added:

“By making ‘I Need Help’ an open-source tool, it means other organisations are free to adapt and use its features to design tools that can help their clients.  If needed, we can help them do that.

“I thank Comic Relief and the winning team from our hackathon, ACEY, which consisted of Aline Kirkland, Conrad Hughes, Evelyn Utterson and Yoti Goudas, who came up with the ‘button’ concept."

The ‘I need help’ button has been developed and tested in Scotland and will be shared with Shelter in England and Wales.

‘I need help’ takes inspiration from an Australian service called Ask Izzy which took 100,000 queries in its first seven months after going live.

Developers wishing to find out more about the tool can find out more.

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