Homeless Hack, Manchester

Homeless Hack Manchester was a 2-day event for anyone interested in helping tackle the problem of homelessness in Manchester and support those currently facing it. The aim was to engage the NorthWest digital community in helping to reduce the specific problems in Manchester.

The hack gave designers and developers a chance to contribute to the important work that’s already happening in Manchester, through Manchester City Council’s Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network and the Action Groups and programmes underway from organisations such as Street Support, Albert Kennedy Trust and Not Just Soup.

The event was hosted by Valtech at their offices in the northern quarter and the hack itself was brilliantly co-ordinated by Sigma and Manchester Digital.

Manchester

The atmosphere on the day was really positive. At previous hacks I’ve been involved in it’s felt very competitive. However, this one was different - everyone just wanted to help. People could form teams and create new ideas, or simply get their hands dirty helping out with some already amazing causes.

For the first few hours we spent some time with some key figures, from politicians to support networks, to people who have lived on the streets themselves. Only then did it hit home just how big an issue homelessness has become in Manchester and how complex the problems are. One of the highlights was hearing Mooch talk bluntly about his experiences of living on the streets and in prison.

Homeless Hack Manchester

Rooph

Our team looked at breaking the cycle. We created rooph.uk. A web system for obilisks around the city where people could find instant help at any time. Rooph allows people to find a ‘rooph’ nearby for the night. In a couple of clicks users can get directions to places close to the city centre where they can stay the night.

We created the first iteration of our product very quickly and within a few hours, Fritz (pictured below) was out on the streets with a tablet user testing it! We immediately found new ways to improve Roophs UX.

I built Rooph in ReactJS and utilised some real data provided to us on the day. During the two days we managed to purchase a domain name and deploy Rooph to a live environment in Azure, which we were very proud of.

https://github.com/surf66/homeless-hack-mcr

Team Sound

Brinq

Another solution that stood out for me was Brinq. An incident reporting tool that anyone can access in order to send help for themselves or others in distress. This stood out among others mainly from a technical point of view. At the end of two days hacking they had a fully functioning system in AWS and were able to demonstrate it’s use live. Not only that - this was a great product. They even gave the authorities the ability to log into the back end where they could visualise all the incidents on a map of the city.

https://github.com/wverne/homeless-hackathon-brink

Stop The Spiral

Ultimately though, Stop the Spiral were the winning team on the day and deservedly so. Their brilliant idea was to take the already very successful model of foster care for children and apply it to homelessness in the UK. This team didn’t build any tech, they collaborated very well together as a team and came to the show and tell with a well rehearsed proposal of a great idea. They had clearly done some good research over the two days and taken onboard the learnings from the talks on the first day.

More Good Causes

A quick shout out to Jonah who I met at the hack. He is kicking off a campaign called Love for the Streets in association with The Big Change Society - Helping to End Homelessness coming this September, go and check it out.