Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic religious sister and humanitarian said, “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.” Here, Mother Teresa is referring to the importance of caring about others. Often times, people look down at others who are homeless believing “they put themselves in this position, they can get themselves out of it.” It is our civic duty as a citizen of the world to lend a helping hand where you can, even the minutest action could help tremendously. New York City Rescue Mission, a non-profit organization that helps provide food, clothing, and shelter to the less fortunate of New York City, has created an app that can now help people help the homeless with the touch of a button.
Help the Homeless is a mobile app that enables users to become directly involved in helping provide necessities for the homeless. Many people find themselves discouraged from giving money to the homeless because of the stereotype that they aren’t going to use it for its original purpose, but instead for drugs or alcohol. The Help the Homeless app provides users with information on the nearest shelter, people they can speak with to help get them off the street, and a list of events for anyone to volunteer at. Help the Homeless is a technology-enhanced learning device, meaning that it enables more people to better communicate and learn together in society (Light and Luckin, 2008). Amartya Sen, an economist and a philosopher, believed that to have real justice we must provide people with the activities that lead to overcoming the injustice (Light and Luckin, 2008). The Help the Homeless app provides people with tools needed to truly help the homeless by providing a path to overcome homelessness.
Since the application provides shelter surrounding the area you are around, the application uses location services. This can be seen as both a positive and negative aspect. It can be seen as positive because those in charge of the app can find the areas with the highest populations of homeless and cater more specifically to those areas. This enables companies like New York City Rescue Mission to host events or build a shelter where is it needed. Location services can be seen as a negative aspect for the app because police could obtain this information with the use of spying tactics like stingrays. Stingrays are fake cellular device towers that collect messages and data of cell phones in range (Fung, 2014). Police could begin to arrest the homeless, which would lead to a lack of desire for help.
Gerard Goggin, a media and communications researcher, believes that cell phones lack in assisting those with disabilities (Goggin, 2006). Cell phones overall make the average person’s life easier, but multiple aspects of these devices disregard people with disabilities. For the homeless, price is a large issue. Most homeless people can’t afford their next meal, so a smartphone with access to apps like this is impossible. While the app Help the Homeless helps people help the homeless, it faults in directly helping due to its lack of accessibility.
Help the Homeless is a great way to get others involved in the fight against homelessness. It provides valuable information that can save the lives and futures of many less fortunate men and women. Even though the app is still in its early stages, it has incredible potential to bring together a large New York City population and really make a difference in informing and helping the homeless community.
Fung, B. (2014, June 3). How hard should it be for cops to track your location? A new lawsuit revives the debate. The Washington Post. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
Goggin, G. (2006). Cellular Disability: Consumption, Design, and Access. In Cell phone culture: Mobile technology in everyday life. London: Routledge.
Help the Homeless App. (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2015.
Light, A., & Luckin, R. (2008). Designing for Social Justice: People, Technology, Learning. Futurelab.