These Code for Progress fellows are giving a leg up to subsidized housing applicants - Technical.ly DC

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Oct. 28, 2014 10:56 am

These Code for Progress fellows are giving a leg up to subsidized housing applicants

The team created a texting app to ensure applicants are speedily informed when new listings go up.
These three current and former Code for Progress fellows — left to right, Pamela Davis, Jason Towns and Terri Acker — created a texting app for subsidized housing applicants.

These three current and former Code for Progress fellows — left to right, Pamela Davis, Jason Towns and Terri Acker — created a texting app for subsidized housing applicants.

(Photo by Aliya Rahman)

Filling out the paperwork to apply for subsidized housing can be a pain. And there’s another hurdle for prospective residents with little tech know-how: tracking available properties.

So local community organization Bread for the City devised a plan to reach its clients as soon as a listing’s wait list opened up: with a texting app.

Bread for the City, which helps low-income people apply for subsidized housing, approached Code for Progress with a plan.

Hackers and housing advocates team up to create a texting app.

“Waiting lists open and close very quickly and they only accept a certain number of people,” said Terri Acker, a Code for Progress fellow who first encountered Bread for the City when she needed legal counsel while also searching for employment.

So she and two other fellows, Pamela Davis and Jason Towns, produced the customized app within a summer month.

Now when a listing opens up, “a text is sent out to say this particular housing complex is accepting application,” explained Acker, who now serves on the organization’s Client Advisory Board, organizing activities like computer, yoga and crochet classes and a rooftop garden.

Stacey Johnson, a rather tech-savvy social worker at Bread for the City, already used Salesforce to store the group’s client data.

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The three coders used Twilio to send the texts out from the Salesforce database. The team created the app on Flask.

Acker said she’s hoping to eventually do more to help ease the process of applying for subsidized housing. “I wanted to match up some of the landlords with the nonprofits in the city that would be interested in connecting,” she said. “It’s actually in my Github.”

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