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Compassionate Tech: Connecting the Homeless + Homeless Care Providers to ID for Benefits Access

MiniCity is a compassionate/community-driven tech resource hub that partners with municipalities, NGOs to quickly secure ID for the homeless

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Mini City is a compassionate, community-driven tech resource hub that partners with municipalities and NGOs to quickly secure ID for the homeless utilizing a tablet based solution. It is an Android based software solution that includes: Identification Services, Vital Record Services, a Goal Tracker, Employment Profile and Success Metrics. Our core focus is obtaining legal forms of identification. As lack of ID prevents the homeless from obtaining services such as TANF, SSI, Medicaid, housing, and more. We are solving a much-needed obstacle on the path out of homelessness. All of our services are securely housed within our encrypted database, a secure admin portal and a tablet kiosk, which is HIPPA compliant to the National Institute of Science + Technology Cyber Security Framework. As you can imagine, during this global pandemic the need for access to government benefits is greatly exacerbated. Identification was greatly needed by the vulnerable to unlock benefits, but during (and post COVID) the need became life critical.

A US study found, of the homeless without ID:

  • 51.1% were denied Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
  • 30.6% were denied Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) benefits
  • 53.1% were denied food stamps
  • 54.1% were denied access to shelters or housing services
  • 45.1% were denied access to Medicaid or medical services

Lacking photo ID can also lead to problems with law enforcement, with 59.8% of respondents reporting that they experienced harassment or arrest when they could not produce an ID. Another 8% said that police confiscated their ID. (Source: National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty)

What is the need are you focusing on?

The need: connecting homeless to ID
ID Services
A citizen is unable to gain access to housing, employment, health benefits and government assistance without ID. Mini City has a secure process for obtaining legal forms of ID at of no cost to the homeless. (The software solution is assessed/paid for by our Customer Sites. We are currently live with 15 sites).

Alleviate Cost + Production Strain for Homeless Care Providers

Employment Services + Referrals
Capture  employment history + auto-generate resumes, to then be auto emailed to vocational officers

The data we capture with our in-app surveys can be used for:
Existing HMIS (Homeless Management Information Systems)
Any local + national Census Efforts
Validating Yearly Goals for Grants + Public Initiatives
Centralize Services

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Identifying a gap that needs to be addressed

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

During COVID, Mini City has shifted our focus from the tablet based application to co-branded APIs that can bring a variety of resource providers together, utilizing our current database of hundreds of homeless citizens, and the nearly 15 partner profiles, sites and teams that are also within our database. While we have done steps, such as offer completely virtual resources, trainings and customer on-boarding, this grant will enable us to expedite the development of the API framework for the "new normal" we will operate in: a more inclusive normal for all.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

Mini City is addressing the issue of long-term homelessness, with lack of ID being a major contributing factor. There are 500k homeless people on any given night in the US, and 50% do not have ID. This solution can support the thousands in the US, and millions globally, that need access to ID and benefits. Currently the substitutes people resort to (case workers, program directors, executive directors, the homeless, patient navigators) to obtain ID for the homeless includes expensive third party vendors that rely on information the homeless often do not have, like banking info, address info, credit history and more); local non-profits that have lifetime maximums for assistance and can only work with ONE state (which can be difficult when the highly transient lose documents) and legal aide which is also costly. We obtain ID in weeks, in a sustainable manner that is already deployed in Atlanta, GA and can be deployed nationwide in months.

What is the name of your business or organization?

Mini City

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

Mini City (www.minicityatl.com) is a compassionate tech resource hub that alleviates lack of access to legal forms of identification through a tablet based software available at homeless care provider sites. These measures include ID Services, Vital Record Services, and Employment Forms. Our core focus is obtaining legal forms of identification, with lack of ID preventing the homeless from obtaining services such as TANF, SSI, Medicaid, housing, and more. We are solving a much-needed obstacle on the path out of homelessness. All of our services are housed within our security encrypted database admin portal and tablet kiosk, which is HIPPA compliant to the National Institute of Science + Technology Cyber Security Framework.

What is your profession?

CEO, Co-Founder of Mini City Program Manager for Atlanta Tech Village's Diversity + Inclusion Pre-Accelerator

Where are you located (country)?

Atlanta, GA

Where are you located (region)?

  • North America

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Social Enterprise; Tech for Social Impact

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 2-5 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Social Enterprise

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Grassroots/Community Groups

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

Connecting to municipalities beyond Georgia to ease the use case of our software. We currently combine over 60 authorization, notary, and waiver forms to apply for identification quickly however having access to municipal level partners in every region can make the process much easier. We are beginning with the Southeast but are open to any service area

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

**The sales and adoption cycle of municipalities can be long, with many regulations** With access to ID being dire, the homeless and homeless care providers are often working against short timeliness to connect those in need to sought after, life sustaining benefits (housing, medical, education, employment) Shelters, housing programs and homeless care providers often have an enrollment period of 30-60 days, but their average time of obtaining ID is 90-200 days. A major barrier is the drawn out sales/implementation cycle of municipalities, our services can continue and be implemented on a NGO level WITHOUT government interaction but it hugely assists in the process if done in tandem moving forward. (Our average to obtain ID is 2-4 weeks)

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

We were already aware that a tech solution that works within social impact must be deeply rooted in community work. Mini City spent our first year working on our solution manually, then moved to a web portal and now are operating on a tablet software kiosk that is live at partner sites. To gain the amount of trust we have seen over the years with an impoverished, transient community that can be many times hesitant to work with organizations; we had to begin with compassion, community engagement and effective tech. In pivoting, we had to go completely virtual with many of our trainings, demos, engagements, and community work. We learned useful tactics to remain present, authentic and genuine even in a virtual setting. Tactics that include new responsive, connections of outreach programs and staff, to continue our services during this pandemic.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

Not specifically related to our solution; we are currently in a program which ends on May 28th (BoomTown: The Farm) Accelerator program that is sponsored by NBCUniversal and Comcast. Our specific goal from this program was to transition our model to a highly mobile environment; due to COVID that need has been accelerated as the urgency of scaling our types of services has grown.

Website URL

https://www.minicityatl.com/

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