The NYC Rescue Mission is Working Out Of Your Pocket

The NYC Rescue Mission App provides a means for finding shelter and care for the homeless individuals of New York City and parts of the surrounding area. The app has a wide range of options available at the bottom of the screen that include resources, outreach, sharing tabs (Facebook, Twitter) and a tab for reporting. The purpose of the report tab is so that one can alert the mission to a homeless individual who seems to be in need. The app then asks the user to list the time, the date, location and gender of the person along with any apparent injuries or illnesses plus a window for any additional information. From downloading the app myself and exploring the services and functions, the targeted demographic does not seem to be the actual homeless population of New York City so much as it is the residents of the city with regular access to iPhones and iPads.

The app is certainly ambitious in nature and it packages as many resources as it can to make the mobile medium helpful to its cause. It does seem however, from a User-Centered point of view, to be centered around mostly around people who are not homeless as opposed to putting these resources in the hands of the homeless population. (Light, A., & Luckin, R.) Though the app is available to download at no cost to the user, the app is limited to the Apple, iPhone and iPad, alienating any potential users that don’t have any access to such products. For those who do have iPhones however, from what I can see from the app itself, the design itself lends itself to being fairly simple as far as usability is concerned and though I can’t say for sure, it looks like users were brought in early in the developmental process taking on a participatory role in making the design easier to use. (Light, A., & Luckin, R.) The app looks polished and works well without really any learning curve along with included support of maps showing locations of shelters. It certainly seems to be effective in accomplishing its goals of bringing help to homeless peoples. It is also oriented toward social media with included videos from the mission’s youtube channel with reports and videos such as this:

Although the app does not outright track the user or doesn’t record any information about the user innately, part of the reporting process is including the location of homeless individuals. Yes, it is being used for a good cause, but that information is still being reported to the mission meaning that it is out there and recorded and some individuals might not want that to happen. Though the app is mostly targeted towards people who are not homeless, it is possible for a homeless individual to have a phone themselves to use the service which could in turn lead to them being tracked by other parties.  This article from the Washington Post shows clearly that police are more than capable of tracking cell phones and if a homeless person wants to use a phone for this app, but still would want to avoid that kind of attention, there really is no way to avoid that. (Fung)

The app does seem a bit limited in design. There is no zoom capability available and because it is an application instead of a webpage, there is no translate function and the app is defaulted to English, assuming that all who would want to use the services read English. (Soederquist)

The app is not perfect but it does have many helpful tools and functions and is a modern and efficient use of mobile teechnologies.

Fung, B. (2014). How hard should it be for cops to track your location? A new lawsuit revives the debate.

Light, A., & Luckin, R. (2008). Designing for social justice: people, technology, learning.

Soederquist. (2012). “Why mobile Web accessibility matters- best practices to make your mobile site accessible” from mobiForge.

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