It’s a modern concept to tackle an age-old problem. Digital experts, IT professionals and third sector workers are to gather in Glasgow to take part in what is billed as Scotland’s first ever ‘homeless hackathon’.
Organisers hope the event in April could spark ideas for apps or digital platforms which could offer practical ways of helping people who find themselves homeless in major cities.
Hackathons are brainstorming sessions made famous by Silicon Valley giants like Facebook, where attendees collaborate intensively on a specific project.
The Glasgow event will bring together more than 150 people from across the IT and digital community, creative industries and local and national government, as well as the charity sector.
Homelessness has become a political priority in recent times. Despite numbers of rough sleepers falling steadily since the start of the decade, there was a two per cent hike in applications for assistance in the six months to September 2017 to 17,797, Scottish Government statistics revealed last month.
Last year the Scottish Government – which has abolished the Right to Buy and pledged to build 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021 – set up a £50m fund and an Action Group aimed at eradicating homelessness.
The Homeless Hackathon, sponsored by HRC Recruitment, will include pitches from charity organisations, such as Simon Community and Streetwork, who are looking for support to create a Risk Assessment App to be used by their street teams. Glasgow Homeless Network Director, Margaret-Ann Brünjes, said: “If there are digital solutions that can ease people’s experience of homelessness in any way, then the hckathon is the best opportunity to engage with the growing tech community in Scotland.”
William Thomson of organisers Gallus Events said: “We hope that by matching organisations with those individuals who have a desire to help, we will start to develop and implement practical solutions to the homeless situation across Scotland. The funding available for the winners will put in place longer term support that will allow ideas to become reality.”
It’s not the first time digital technology has been used to help tackle homelessness.
The mobile friendly I Need Help button – launched in October last year to mark World Homelessness Day – is a geo-positioning enabled tool which sends people to their nearest help point, such as their local authority housing/homelessness support team or third sector help.
The hackathon concept has also become increasingly popular among sectors not traditionally associated with digital technology.
Last month, William Grant and Sons, a family-owned drinks giant which produces some of the best-known brands in the country, invited industry specialists from fields ranging from tech to retailers to attend a two-day brainstorming session dubbed ‘Hackadram’.
The Homeless Hackathon is looking to attract anyone with ideas, time, skills and resources to dedicate to supporting homeless charities.
As well as programmers and coders, the Homeless Hackathon will welcome social workers, graphic designers, care workers, digital marketeers, project managers, shop owners, journalists, accountants and others in transformational roles.