New smartphone technology connects users with shelters, clinics
THE SANTA CLARA
February 5, 2015
In an effort to ease the unique difficulties of youth homelessness, a group of Santa Clara students is developing two applications aimed at tackling the complicated issue.
The two-module system they created provides distinct applications. One targets homeless youth, while the other focuses on clinics and other organizations that provide aid to this population.
The application provides users with information about nearby shelters and health clinics, according to Santa Clara computer engineering graduate student Sushma Devarapalli, who is working on the project.
The creators hope the application, aimed to help people between the ages of 16 and 24, will provide valuable tools to help combat sexual health issues. Sexual violence, STDs and teen pregnancy are common among homeless youth.
The app locates nearby clinics and aid providers that homeless users might want to access. Users are then able to rate the services of the clinics so that other users can find the best options.
The provider application is meant to streamline the intake process of homeless clients for health clinics, and is intended for use on tablets.
When a homeless person visits a health clinic, they are asked a series of questions about their sexual activity and health. Answers are stored in a shared database, which allows clinics for the homeless to make evidence-based decisions about how to best serve the community.
“They’re simple technology, but very powerful. I think (this project) is very important,” Devarapalli said. “Being a woman myself, I can relate to the issues this project tries to deal with.”
The project was developed after the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a request for proposals on mobile applications aimed at homeless youth.
Deb Levine, founder of Oakland nonprofit YTH, jumped at the opportunity and partnered with Santa Clara’s Frugal Engineering Lab and the Community Technology Alliance, a San Jose-based organization that provides a database of homeless service providers, to create a proposal.
YTH is dedicated to addressing youth health issues through technology.
The applications are prototypes and are not currently available to download. The first phase of testing will occur on Santa Clara’s campus at the Frugal Innovation Lab on Feb. 6 and 7.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure working with the people at Santa Clara and CTA,” said Bhupendra Sheoran, executive director of YTH. “Understanding what a community really needs and creating a product is an amazing experience.”
After receiving feedback at the weekend trial, the team will go back to the drawing board and implement any necessary changes they see fit. They will present these changes to the CDC in April. Once approved by the CDC, testing will begin on a larger scale in parts of the Bay Area.
Sheoran said he hopes that, with time, use of the application will spread to other parts of the country.
Alumnae Kelsey Dedoshka, Katie Le and Kaitlin Kirasich worked with Silvia Figueira, associate professor of computer engineering, to first develop the applications as their senior design project in 2013.
Undergraduate Angela Laar and graduate students Devarapalli, Arjun Tarikere and Apurva Thomas are currently developing the applications.
Contact Nicolas Sonnenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.