As students at AC4D, Kelsey and I were tasked with finding a social problem with the theme of sustainability. We were both passionate about the sustainability of affordable housing in Austin, TX. During our research into the space, we found that “affordable” housing in Austin still is not all that affordable. The price range for these units and homes are still only available to people who have income above $45,000. There are so many people who make less than this in the city, so many people who struggle to afford rent and need help or face living on the street. So we went to speak with those individuals specifically. At ARCH and around downtown Austin, we spoke with individuals about their experiences with homelessness and what it is like to try to get off of the street. We found that people do not always want to be off of the street, we saw how rapid rehousing services and permanent supportive housing services help the people who are most vulnerable. But we also saw how many people are left behind. How many people are lost by the system and do not qualify for these housing initiatives. We wondered: are there programs for these individuals? Do they have any options? They felt like they were standing still; like there was no where for them to go but down until they were where the system would pick them up again.
We found services who would work with nearly all of our research participants. We wondered: How can we connect these individuals to the support they need?
Enter Quarters, a web-based experience for connecting individuals with housing services near them. Using a responsive and dynamic dialogue system, we find what these people need to apply for housing programs, guide them through the processes, and connect them with the organization to apply.
We promise to connect individuals experiencing homelessness to stable housing. Using Quarters, individuals will be able to connect with housing programs catering to their needs and their situation. Quarters will also help individuals keep track of their applications, contact the organizations for their progress towards housing, and assist in getting documents required for some applications. The people who we are focusing on need structure, but do not receive any. Quarters is filling a gap left by the system and current case management, helping individuals who are in need and receive little help from the state as the system is now.
Our Business Structure
Current cost of an individual on the street is nebulous. Figures range from just above $14,000 to upwards of $30,000. One cost estimate stays the same: $10,000 to house, and give case management to, the chronically homeless of the country.
Quarter would help to reduce the cost of individuals to the state, regardless of case management. They would find housing faster, reducing their costs to emergency organizations and charities for homeless individuals. We hope to expand Quarter to include free legal, job, and financial organizations these people need as well. These additions will also help stabilize our target population’s lives beyond housing, keeping them housed, off of the street, and living for themselves.
To cover costs, we would use local, state, and federal funds appropriated for use in non-profits helping individuals experiencing homelessness. There are many funds available for people in this space, as well as a consistent public spotlight on the problem. Any lack of funding would need to be made up from donors. Whether corporate or private, donations will help cover overhead. Monetizing Quarters seems predatory; as our population is already marginalized. Funding for our endeavors would need to be appropriated from public monies or private funding. Our in-progress business plan can be found here.