BIGBURGH.COM is a mobile-optimized web site that pulls together the services that can help those having a tough time (especially the homeless or those at risk of being homeless) and addresses some of the issues associated with homelessness in Pittsburgh. BigBurgh.com only services that are free, good and welcoming to those without an address.
HOW THE “APP” WORKS
The “app” opens with a “For You” dial, allowing the user to filter results by gender/age or Vets/family status. If the user wants to see it all, they can go directly to the “Services Dial.” There, everyday needs are represented with icons, including “Expert Lookup,” a repository for programs and events. Then below these dials are two “urgent need” buttons. The left one leads to “Safe Places and Hotlines” and the other is called “Live Street Help.” The latter was conceived as a kind of “Uber for the homeless”: users can initiate a chat with available outreach workers (sorted by neighborhood) who, if needed, can drive to meet the homeless person. The Police in particular welcomed this opportunity to summon professional help for someone in a non-911 level of distress.
HOW IT STARTED
The project is the brainchild of conversations between Joe Lagana, founder of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) and Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant (recently retired) of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Many Police had expressed a continuing frustration trying to figure out on-the-spot what was available to help those on the street. Even professionals in the field expressed frustration at being able to keep up. Maurita said, “what we need is an app for that,” an app for the Police, the homeless and professionals.
Joe approached Bob Firth, the founder of Pittsburgh’s Informing Design, Inc., and asked him to look into what could be done. Bob spent a year studying the issues as well as what other cities (and nations) were doing. He and his team then developed a new kind of homeless services mobile-interface, one that was graphical and friendly and that also made the most urgent needs the quickest to access. HCEF then obtained foundation support for a two year pilot program, with most of the budget dedicated to keeping the information up-to-date.