OurCalling Shelter, in Dallas County, USA is a Christian project, providing facilities for thousands of the area’s rough sleepers. In 2015, the county recorded over 10,000 homeless people.
The shelter provides the homeless with food, shelter and washing facilities for the day and, since forming a relationship with GlobalReach Technology, who provided the technology free of charge, it now also provides public Wi-Fi.
OurCalling approached GlobalReach through its IT provider Kenetic. The resulting free Wi-Fi service was installed in May 2018, allowing OurCalling patrons to access social media, contact loved ones, apply for jobs, Skype, email and apply for government services.
As part of the login process OurCalling captures personal info such as email and mobile numbers, to ensure that it’s volunteers are able to connect with the homeless, to support them with vital
information about its services, and services in the wider community.
Over the summer in 2018, and with temperatures reaching 44 degrees in Dallas County, the OurCalling team was able to put this personal contact information to good use. With people being hospitalised, and some deaths due to extreme heat exposure, the team could contact the homeless directly with information about where to get water, medical help and support if they have problems.
OurCalling achieves social inclusion and safeguarding at scale, to a degree that the thousands of potential homeless users would not have been able to access through other services.
Although initially connected to support and online public services through the cost-effective on-premise public network, there is further potential for users to connect to Wireless Cities services as Dallas County and other large cities expand their interconnected public networks. For cities already with active networks, there is the potential to connect apps through Wi-Fi.
Moreover, roaming operators could also support the service, allowing homeless individuals to be tracked and protected, once they leave shelters. For homeless with additional physical and mental health needs, wearable IoT devices like diabetes monitors and dementia trackers could connect to municipal networks, places and services.
The Wi-Fi network is now a permanent service at OurCalling, with hundreds of daily users. OurCalling provides an app that delivers a single channel to access over 200 homeless aiding tasks in Dallas, such as information about addiction, medical care, food and shelter. The list includes all the vital contacts for the city’s poor.
- Thousands of users since May 2018 install
- Enables enfranchisement and social inclusion
- Potential to connect with smart city and roaming services outside of the shelter, to enable further connectivity and support
“Having the personal data and subsequent contact that this enabled, directly resulted in lives being saved.”
“I am so excited about this. We need to communicate with our homeless friends and you are helping us do it. This is truly groundbreaking. It’s like our own emergency broadcast system for the homeless community. We have ideas about expanding it to other hotspots throughout the city – at shelters.”
Pastor Wayne Walker, OurCalling Founder