The fight to end homelessness reached a high note in Seattle in early May with the first-ever Hack to End Homelessness — and we were honored to be a part of it. Nearly 100 developers, designers, and nonprofit providers and advocacy organizers gathered for the four-day event to build innovative technology solutions aimed at ending homelessness in Seattle.
The event began on Thursday, May 1 with the ArtWalk — a new photo exhibit on #homelessness running through the end of May. The photo exhibit featured incredible work from photojournalist Dan Lamont’s Family Homelessness in Washington series, Rex Hohlbein of Homeless in Seattle, and young photographers from the University District Youth Center.
The Seattle premiere of @home successfully kicked off Day 2 of the event. The film was screened to a packed and enthusiastic house. A lively panel discussion followed the film, with director Susanne, Mark Horvath, and Mark Putnam, director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, discussing homelessness in our communities and different tools we can use to get people off of the streets and into housing. It was great to be able to bring @home to Seattle and to a group of such talented, socially conscious entrepreneurs.
The culmination of the event was Sunday evening, when 12 teams pitched a variety of ideas to help those living on the streets of Seattle. The projects ranged from a social network for homeless people to a detailed map that visualizes homelessness for 25 major metropolitan areas in the US. You can view some of the completed projects at http://www.hacktoendhomelessness.com/projects/.
Over the past decade, Seattle has certainly made an effort to house its homeless men and women, but there are still more than 2,300 people in Seattle sleeping on the streets — up 16 percent from 2013 — and city data shows nearly 10,000 households checking into shelters or transitional housing last year. Rising rent prices have exacerbated homelessness in the area, a problem that many attribute to Seattle’s growing tech sector. By encouraging entrepreneurs to develop a deeper understanding of the homelessness issue, the event organizers hope to reduce tension between the housing community and tech workers.
We are so thankful to have been a part of this exciting inaugural event and to help in deepening the conversation on homelessness in the U.S.