Danish IT company helping homeless in San Francisco

September 22nd, 2014

This article is more than 9 years old.

Increasing number of homeless have smartphones

The San Francisco-based, Danish IT company Zendesk has designed an app, Link SF, which can be used by the US city's many homeless people to locate the services needed to make their lives a little bit easier.

Zendesk, which was founded in Copenhagen in 2007 before moving its headquarters to the impoverished Tenderloin district of San Francisco in 2011, designed its app after a homeless resource centre Tenderloin Tech Lab found that an increasing number of homeless people possess mobile phones that can access the internet.

“Many apps offer information on how long it takes to get somewhere by car, but our users need to know how long it takes to walk,” Ken Nagakawa, a software developer at Zendesk, told DR Nyheder.

With help from state subsidies for smartphones and phone subscriptions for the homeless, the number of homeless people with internet-accessible mobile phones has increased from 33 to 40-42 percent in just three years.

READ MORE: Odense fitting their homeless with GPS to learn about their habits and movements

Open source project
At the behest of Tenderloin Tech Lab, Nagakawa designed an app that will help the homeless find information about places to sleep, medical services, soup kitchens and perhaps a computer workshop where they can find electricity to charge their phones.

“It’s easy to walk down the street and get annoyed at the homeless, but when you meet them face-to-face, you actually meet the large silent majority in your local environment, Nagakawa said.”

“They are the people who actually live here. That was a powerful experience.”

Nagakawa and his colleagues at Zendesk have created Link SF as an open-source project so other cities can use and implement the system.

Tech projects back home
Back in Denmark there are also ongoing efforts to improve the lives of the homeless via technology.

In a bid to improve the daily lives of its homeless community, Odense Council has given 20 of its homeless GPS devices to carry around in their pockets for a week as part of a voluntary test project.


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