Comic Relief funds housing help at the ‘touch of a button’

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland has secured funding from Comic Relief to develop a cutting edge online tool that helps people in crisis find the help they need quickly.   Picture Ian Rutherford
Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland has secured funding from Comic Relief to develop a cutting edge online tool that helps people in crisis find the help they need quickly. Picture Ian Rutherford

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland has secured funding from Comic Relief to develop a cutting edge online tool that helps people in crisis find the help they need quickly.

The charity already provides a wealth of information on its mobile-friendly website but wants to make access to person-specific information quicker and easier.

The funding will be used to develop a tool which will ask targeted questions that lead to the right information for each user based on their location. The service will be accessed through a prominent button on the charity’s homepage labelled ‘I need help’.

The idea was the winning solution from a housing and homelessness hackathon which brought together experts in business, policy, user experience and web development along with representatives from Shelter Scotland in July last year.

Conrad Rossouw, digital manager at Shelter Scotland, said: “We already receive 800,000 unique web visits a year including 5,000 people visiting our ‘advice for young people’ and ‘leaving home in a hurry’ pages. Some of these people will be in a state of deep distress. The aim of this tool is to get them to the right information for them as quickly as possible – for example the address and phone number for their local council’s homelessness service.”

Conrad added: “We are grateful to Comic Relief and its supporters for the funding which will help us turn this inspired idea into a tool which will be a lifeline for those searching for emergency accommodation.”

The ‘I need help button’ will be developed and tested in Scotland this year. Once refined and evaluated it will be shared with Shelter in England and Wales. The tool will be open source allowing partners across the third sector and elsewhere to promote it and make use of it in other situations.

The ‘I need help’ button takes inspiration from an Australian service called Ask Izzy which took 100,000 queries in its first seven months.