One in six Ohioans do not know where their next meal will come from.*
Imagine a social services search engine that allows people-in-need to find the service they need, when they need it – from a food pantry for groceries or a meal, to a shelter or utility assistance.
Not only does someone need to know the location of the service provider, but they also need to know eligibility requirements, hours of operations and often wheelchair accessibility.
Many community centers, like the Reeb Avenue Center, serve as a hub to connect neighbors-in-need to emergency and community services. However, centers have challenges keeping information for the vast network of social services up-to-date and ready to distribute as paper hand-outs. With increasing demand of services and evolving eligibility requirements, community centers need a source that is consistently up-to-date and easy-to-navigate.
Service providers want a mobile application that they could use as a tool when engaging residents in-person via a kiosk or tablet, and useful to residents-in-need of after-hours information.
*Source: Feeding America
Photo credit: The Reeb Avenue Center
VOLUNTEER CODERS WANT TO HELP
Volunteer coders, business analysts and project managers of the Smart Columbus Open Data Enthusiasts (SCODE) meetup group donated their time and talent to build and test a mobile solution in partnership with Reeb Avenue Center.
ColumbusHelper.org is a community services locator application that includes an interactive map displaying locations of active service providers. Users can navigate the map by service location, service provider and service offerings.
The application provides easy-to-use filters to select the type of services they are looking for – including food, shelter and transportation support.
The application is powered by Smart Columbus Operating System (SCOS), pulling data for services and agencies locations from a data set provided by HandsOn Central Ohio. HandsOn Central Ohio is a part of a national network of providers through 2-1-1 which supplies resources to those in crisis and coallates this data daily.
The app can be used by anyone who has access to a smart device or on a tablet in any community center or library. The benefits of utilizing the SCOS include:
- Leverage a central repository: By automatically pulling data from a trusted source like HandsOn, individual service providers do not need to manually update their own databases or paper-handouts.
- Lower costs: Printing and distributing catalogues and lists of social service providers can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor that requires constant updates. Running the application is not a cost burden to community organizations that are generally strapped for resources. Tablets operating in kiosk setups or by community liaisons can serve as invaluable communication resources.
- Engage partners for user feedback and validation: SCODE members performed two validation workshops at the Reeb Avenue Center during its weekly free community dinner. After demonstrating the application and interacting with south side community members, they received overwhelming confirmation of the value of the application. Community members also advised app developers on how to improve the interface to make the application even more user-friendly and to ensure it covers major needs in the community.
FEEDING A HUNGRY FAMILY
Administrative Assistant and Retail Clerk
Joy is a single mom to 2 young kids, working 2 jobs. It’s up to her to go looking for the right social services. With the stigma and time associated, it’s no wonder people have trouble finding them. Joy often goes to the Reeb Center’s South Side Root Cafe ; when she visits, she is able to get groceries and hot meal after picking up her kids from the Boys & Girls Club. But with her shifting work schedule, she has trouble visiting during the specific grocery pickup times. After hours in particular, it is hard to know where to go. By visiting ColumbusHelper.org – on her phone or at the Reeb Center kiosk – she is able to see the hours, location and eligibility information of service providers near her on an easy-to-navigate map; she is connected to the services she desperately needs, but may have never found on her own.
Reeb Avenue Center
The Reeb Avenue Center is a collaborative non-profit hub that houses at least a dozen central Ohio social service providers, in an effort to connect residents to community resources. Organizations housed in the center include Boys & Girls Club, Goodwill Columbus, YMCA of Central Ohio and a pay-as-you-can café by Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Located on the south side of Columbus, the center provides childcare, job training and education, community housing and entrepreneurship opportunities since opening in 2015.
South Side Roots
South Side Roots provides nutritious food to the community while helping to foster the positive impact that fresh food has on the physical and mental health of our neighbors. Their model is an innovative concept in foodbanking that creates a mixed income dining and shopping experience within the Reeb Avenue Center South Side Roots is owned and operated by Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
The program includes a pay-what-you-can cafe, an affordable fresh foods market, a weekly community meal, and a Kids Cafe meal program for students at South Side Learning & Development Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Columbus.
HandsOn Central Ohio
HandsOn Central Ohio connects people, local resources, volunteers, and service organizations to opportunity. For nearly five decades, we have served as Central Ohio’s platform for using technology to bridge community data and community leadership; and as a catalyst for generating solutions to Central Ohio’s greatest social challenges. They make it easier for people to navigate Central Ohio’s social service landscape and provide easier access to resources in ways that keep pace with the increasing needs of a growing region. People can turn to them 24 hours a day, every day, and be assured that they can find what they are looking for, wherever they are, when they need it most.
Smart Columbus Open Data Enthusiasts (SCODE) is a group of community-based enthusiasts focused on supporting and amplifying the Smart Columbus initiative via open data projects. The meetup group of over 700 members have continued the momentum from the 2018 Hackathon ( http://hackscos.com ). They aim to enable community participation in areas of BI/Analytics, Data analysis / Visualization and software development. The group promotes Smart Columbus open datasets (https://www.smartcolumbusos.com/data) to solve challenges related to the quality of life and economic growth of Columbus.