Ann Arbor hackathon aims to develop technological solutions to homelessness

From Feb. 16-18, the Washtenaw County-based veterans affairs group 2Marines will host a Homelessness Hackathon at the Sheraton Ann Arbor Hotel, located at 3200 Boardwalk Dr.
The event will bring together software developers, programmers, and tech enthusiasts for an intensive weekend spent collaborating on digital tools intended to alleviate problems associated with homelessness.
"Basically we're sharpening our tools to be able to … help people faster," says event organizer Joshua McAllister. McAllister is a founding member of 2Marines, a team of five veterans who have each experienced homelessness at some point in the past.
According to McAllister, 2Marines routinely sends an outreach team into the community to work one-on-one with people experiencing homelessness. That work can take various forms. Some members of the outreach team are licensed to notarize paperwork on the spot, for example — a valuable skill among those for whom transportation may pose unique challenges.
"People don't have cars and they don't have a way to just tote around all their files," McAllister says. "... When you're already stressed out and you're going through something and you’ve got to get on a bus and … [visit] four or five buildings … and you don't know the bus routes and things of that nature — you're just lost."
At the Homelessness Hackathon, McAllister is hoping to develop software that would aid with similar issues related to case management. 2Marines is partnering with Michigan Veterans Affairs, the Washtenaw Community College Entrepreneurship Center, and Ann Arbor SPARK, among others, to organize the event. McAllister says he’s heard from so many interested parties that, without more funding, he might have to turn potential participants away.
Those interested in donating to or learning more about the Homelessness Hackathon can learn more here.

Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.

Photo courtesy of 2Marines.
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