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This Innovative Website Connects Mobile Phone Users to Vital Services

March 5, 2014
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This Innovative Website Connects Mobile Phone Users to Vital Services
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Link-SF transforms how the low-income and homeless access social services.

These days, it seems like just about everyone — from small children to the elderly — has a cell phone. This can even be said of low-income and homeless individuals in San Francisco (home of the country’s hottest tech hub), where a decent percentage this population has mobile phones.

So in order to connect these residents — about 6,500 homeless individuals live within the city limits — with vital services such as food, shelter, hygiene and medical services, Zendesk, in partnership with Gray Area Foundation and St. Anthony’s Tech Lab, created Link-SF. The site, which is specifically optimized for mobile users, officially launched on Friday after a month of testing. It gives homeless and low-income individuals from across the city the ability to search for nearby services through an easy-to-use mobile site that takes advantage of technological advances such as geolocating and real-time data. This way, individuals can be directed to services they need quickly and efficiently.

Additionally, Link-SF gives users the location, phone numbers and hours of operation for service providers, plus it also allows for filters where users can narrow the search depending on specific needs — such as women’s shelters or places suitable for children.

“Historically, the way service-seekers find out about services is a printed piece of paper, a spreadsheet,” Kenshiro Nakagawa, software engineer at Zendesk, told Mashable. “That’s very different than what the consumer world uses [today]. There’s no reason why, besides access to the web, service-seekers wouldn’t have the same tools at their disposal.”

MORE: How You Can Help the Homeless With the Push of a Button

The idea for Link-SF was born from workers at St. Anthony’s Tech Lab, a free technology center for the homeless and low-income population located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. These workers began to notice an increase in web-enabled, mobile phone use from the people who visited the lab. Of course, we’re not talking primarily about high-end smartphone devices. Rather, the lab’s representatives estimate that at least 45 percent of visitors have basic “feature phones”, which is exactly what Link-SF was optimized for.

For a population that is increasingly relying on mobile phones to find and access vital services, Link-SF is putting all the information they need right at their fingertips.

ALSO: How Can We Beat Homelessness? Predict It Before It Happens

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