Jon Bon Jovi Announces Winner of Project REACH

Jon Bon Jovi announced Monday the winner of the Project REACH competition—a mobile app contest challenging companies to develop a program to connect outreach providers with real-time access to resources in their community.
Qbase LLC was awarded the $25,000 prize for developing an app called Homeless REACH, which empowers anyone with a smart phone to access support services for the homeless.
Bon Jovi, as the face and founder of JBJ Soul Foundation, was a judge in the contest, which was jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The apps were evaluated based on sustainability, scalability, user experience and completeness, with 5 finalists awarded $10,000.
Bon Jovi said during a conference call on April 15 that he saw firsthand the problem of accessing aid for the homeless when a person volunteering at his restaurant, Soul Kitchen, wasn't sure where he was sleeping that night. The Red Bank, N.J., restaurant has no prices on its menu, with diners either paying a donation or volunteering to earn a meal. “In suburbia, [shelters] are not always very accessible,” Bon Jovi said.
Reston, Va.-based Qbase seeks to solve that problem with Homeless REACH, allowing users to use GPS technology to track down housing, transport, legal, employment, healthcare, food, hotlines, and other resources for the homeless though their phones.
Brian Sullivan, a spokesperson for HUD, said that app is designed to be a tool for outreach workers to use when encouraging a homeless individual to access housing and other aid.
“Shelters fill up so you have to have access to real-time data showing where there are available resources,” Sullivan said.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said on the call that the Obama administration is committed to eliminating veteran homelessness by 2015.
Under a federal program called Opening Doors, veteran homelessness has been reduced by 17 percent in just over two years, Donovan said.
“We've been able to bring down the number of veterans on the streets and in shelters by nearly 1 in 5 and continue to push together to reach zero by 2015,” Donovan said.
Qbase, which uses data from HUD's Homeless Management Information System, said it will be donating its prize money to veteran organizations EOD Memorial Foundation and the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation.
When asked how Qbase will spread the word about its app, Bon Jovi said, “Hopefully that's where my celebrity will come in.”
Eric K. Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, said in a release following the announcement that the technology will help “to better serve veterans.”
“The result [of the contest] is a robust and scalable tool for caregivers, social workers, and anyone who wants to help homeless veterans access the support and physical care they need.”
All five of the mobile app finalists created under Project REACH are available for download here.
(Photo courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs)

Jodi Weinberger served as assistant editor of Shelterforce from 2013 to 2014.


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