Two federal agencies – the departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development – have teamed up to present Project REACH. REACH stands for Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless. It is a federal app challenge for developers to create a mobile app that would help caregivers and homeless Veterans find resources in their immediate area.
The desired application would be a portal for homeless Veterans and would allow anyone to look up available beds and other resources in the area in real time. The competition runs from March 22 to July 27.
The finalists will be announced in November, and the grand prize winner will be announced in November. Finalists will receive $10,000, and the winner will be awarded $25,000.
Where did the idea for Project REACH originate? From none other than Jon Bon Jovi, who is an avid philanthropist in addition to being a rock star. He founded JBJ Soul Kitchen in New Jersey – a community restaurant with no set prices run by volunteers. Diners either pay a donation or volunteer in lieu of payment.
Bon Jovi saw the need for such a mobile app when a volunteer asked for help finding a bed for the night. Other volunteers searched the internet for information, but they could not determine if there were any available beds in the area.
Some have doubts about the usefulness of the project, questioning how many homeless Veterans have a smart phone or other device capable of running such an application.
However, the project’s sponsors explained that the app is ultimately designed as much for those looking to help homeless Veterans as it is for the Veterans themselves. Even Veterans without a smart phone or tablet could take advantage of the app at places like soup kitchens, homeless shelters and job centers.