The Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services (MOHS) and Baltimore’s Continuum of Care have launched a software tool where people experiencing homelessness can manage digital copies of vital documents like birth certificates and ID’s needed to obtain housing services.
My Digital Data Locker Baltimore went live this month. Clients of MOHS use the web-based platform with housing case managers and benefits program specialists. This streamlining and safeguarding of documents is expected to allow those experiencing homelessness to stay “document ready,” speeding up the process of getting housing through the city.
“Documents are frequently lost, stolen, or destroyed during a housing crisis. Now, by snapping a photo with a cell phone and uploading it to a secure account, these documents will be more easily maintained. Baltimore is proud to pilot this program,” Tisha Edwards, acting director of MOHS, said in a statement.
The data management tool was created by Baltimore’s CoC Lived Experience Advisory Committee, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services. D.C.-based civic innovation org New America’s Digital Impact and Governance Initiative. They took an iterative approach that incorporated feedback from people experiencing homelessness. Technical design studio Two Bulls is the developer and managed service provider, while the Baltimore Civic Fund is the project manager for operations going forward. Along with New America, it was funded by Kaiser Permanente, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
The tool is being piloted in Baltimore for the next three months, in which case managers will beta-test the software. City officials said it will be a key part of the city’s Rapid Rehousing Program, which has moved 291 people and families from temporary shelter to more permanent housing since the pandemic started.
“To eliminate homelessness, we must eliminate the barriers that stand in the way of our neighbors accessing housing,” said Mayor Brandon Scott.
The code for the tool is open source and available on New America’s Github repository.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-