Hackathon aims to solve St. Patrick Center’s data challenges, make services easier to get

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One of St. Patrick Center's wish-list items may soon be fulfilled, with the job of tracking the needs of homeless people becoming easier.

GlobalHack, a nonprofit organization focused on building a better tech community through software competitions, recently announced a partnership with St. Patrick Center, which provides housing, employment and health programs to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

GlobalHack wants "to put our money where our mouth is and put serious resources into identifying a problem large enough to warrant a million-dollar prize," said Matt Menietti, GlobalHack's executive director. "Homelessness is a major issue to which technology can be applied."

GlobalHack VI will bring more than 2,500 software developers, designers and entrepreneurs to St. Louis University's Chaifetz Arena Oct. 21-23. Teams will build software solutions for efforts to prevent and end homelessness, competing for $1 million in cash prizes.

Under an open-source software license, winning solutions will be made free and available for anyone to use and for software developers to improve. To ensure a level playing field for all hackathon participants, full details of the challenge will not be released until Friday, Oct. 21.

St. Patrick Center CEO Laurie Phillips said the result will give St. Patrick Center and all homeless services agencies a critical tool in ending chronic homelessness in the region. She said the agency has challenges in tracking data and prioritizing clients, "and it makes us less efficient and in some ways less effective because we are not able to get people the right services with the right agency at the right time all of the time."

Gabe Lozano, co-founder and CEO of LockerDome; Drew Winship, CEO of Juristat; and Travis Sheridan, assistant vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship at the St. Louis County Economic Council, began GlobalHack in 2013 to push more entrepreneurs past the idea stage and into delivering working prototypes. It also seeks to attract talent to the region to help meet the staffing demands of a booming tech community here. (Brian Matthews, general partner at Cultivation Capital, and Mark Lewis, CFO at Lockerdome, are the other board members.)

The weekend-long marathons of software development called hackathons began in 2014. Smaller teams working together have built software for private companies needing solutions to problems. The focus now is on nonprofit or civic areas. Last year, the hackathon provided tech solutions to problems accessing information on the municipal court system in St. Louis. These solutions should roll out in the next few months in various courts.

Phillips had talked with Lozano about St. Patrick Center's technology challenges. Lozano has a passion for social justice issues and looking at ways to solve them, Phillips said. "Because we have so little resources for administrative and technology needs, we would never be able to go out and find a system that would be cost-effective for us to buy and that would do what we need it to do," she said. "The beauty of it is we have these brilliant people coming into town to talk to us about what our needs are and figure out how they can help. The system that results could be used anywhere in getting people housed more efficiently."

Menietti said technology can help track outcomes and resources, helping an agency "do more with less." He's motivated because he sees technology as providing distractions sometimes, so he appreciates the opportunity to build software that matters and brings people together.

Phillips said Lozano and Menietti see the the dignity of all people, especially those who are marginalized. "This will pull people together who can make a difference for others, getting them the resources and housing they need." 

A knack for hack

GlobalHack invites member agencies of the City of St. Louis' Continuum of Care to collaborate with St. Patrick Center to identify the most promising solutions in building software solutions for efforts to prevent and end homelessness. St. Patrick Center will take the lead in fully adopting the top solution. Throughout this process, GlobalHack will collaborate with St. Patrick Center to identify and select a handful of other member agencies to serve as launch partners. Of GlobalHack VI's $1 million prize pool, $250,000 is being set aside as an incentive for selected individuals to work with St. Patrick Center and other launch partners post-event, developing and bringing the best solution to market.

ABOUT GLOBALHACK

GlobalHack is a building a better tech ecosystem through software competitions. Its events bring together developers, designers, entrepreneurs and technologists to build innovative software solutions to real-world problems. Learn more at globalhack.org.

ABOUT ST. PATRICK CENTER

The mission of the St. Patrick Center is to help individuals and families move from homelessness to independence in dignified, cost-effective and permanent ways. Learn more at stpatrickcenter.org.

St. Patrick Center

In fiscal year 2015, St. Patrick Center provided opportunities to 5,765 individuals and families who experienced homelessness or were at risk of becoming homeless.

• 1,830 needed housing

• 3,935 needed another service

• Veterans comprise 19 percent of St. Patrick Center's client population, or approximately 1,100.

• 712 clients and their dependent children and significant others received housing and another 322 maintained their housing.

• 348 clients were placed into full-time and part-time jobs, and 66 percent of clients achieved 90 days or more of employment.

• 794 clients experiencing behavioral health issues were helped with personal goals and to secure benefits, employment and housing

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