Bowie State University Students Develop Technology to Aid the Homeless

Bowie_State_University_SealStudents at historically Black Bowie State University in Maryland have developed an electronic kiosk designed for aiding homeless people. The kiosk, which could be placed in urban areas with large numbers of homeless people, provides up-to-the-minute information about the availability of space in area shelters. The students recently demonstrated their kiosk before members of Congress at the Capitol Hill Maker Faire.

Using a minicomputer, wireless internet adapter, and computer monitor, the kiosk diplays real-time information about which local shelters have available food, clothing, or beds. A software program will form a network of local shelters that will make data on resource availability accessible to people on the street.

lamarCourtney Lamar, an assistant professor of computer science at Bowie State and leader of the project, said that “many students do not graduate from college having created a model or an idea they developed to solve a real-life problem. These students will definitely have an edge on their peers when they enter the workforce.”

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  1. This is an important advance for the homeless. HOWEVER, I am a little skeptical about the data availability, as my experience with DC homelessness has been that the availability of beds is a closely-guarded secret. I admit that this differs from other areas I have lived with respect to beds (and the other resources referenced), so perhaps DC is unique?? Other resources I would recommend you include – if you don’t already do so – are showers and storage. Some communities have shower programs so that even if a homeless person can’t get a bed, (s)he can get clean. Likewise, homeless people often face significant problems with the security of their belongings, including, of course, important legal documents. Some cities have implemented “bin” systems that provide homeless people with a safe storage place at a VERY low cost (e.g., fundamentally a large bin in a warehouse with an attendant).

    I hope you keep working on this project – this is incredibly important work. Kudos for undertaking it.

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