Sydney's Barhead deploys new app to combat homelessness

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Sydney's Barhead deploys new app to combat homelessness

Sydney-based Barhead Solutions has joined forces with the End Street Sleeping Collaboration (ESSC) to develop a new app to combat homelessness in Australia.

The Microsoft Power App, named BNL (“By-Name List”) 2.0, is a real-time app to help street sleepers in Australia find accommodation.

The ESSC is a combined project from the NSW Government, the Institute of Global Homelessness and other not-for-profit (NFP) organisations to reduce street sleeping by 50 percent across NSW by 2025 and eliminate it in the state.

The organisation was initially scoped for the City of Sydney, one of 14 vanguard cities implementing this methodology globally, in conjunction with the NSW Premier’s Challenge, the initiative has been expanded to the whole of NSW, the only larger-scale implementation in the world. The ESSC’s community report in February stated that 129 Sydney siders are sleeping rough.

As part of the project, Barhead Solutions was tapped to help solve the growing problem of street sleeping.

NSW has 128 local government areas, making it challenging to monitor and implement the methodology across multiple communities. A key component of the approach is to understand the profile, background and circumstances of each person who is street sleeping.

Barhead built the app to capture the data required to understand each individual’s story and get them the help and support they need. BNL 2.0 helps the ESSC by connecting the sector, from the smallest agencies to the NSW Government, thus removing silos in different organisations and among service providers.

By storing all the details of the client (who is street sleeping) in a centralised database, BNL 2.0 essentially acts as a service coordination and collaboration tool that allows homeless services to have a single view of people street sleeping.

Barhead’s head of not-for-profit Amanda Stenson said, “To help people move out of homelessness, we need to understand their stories first – what are the factors that contributed to their current situation and what’s preventing them from getting stable housing? Only then can we fully understand how to get them the support they need.

“The ESSC wanted to make this information easily available to caseworkers and service providers, which is why Barhead built a scalable and real-time app built on Microsoft to help the ESSC achieve its mission of lessening the number of rough sleepers in NSW.”

Using BNL 2.0, multiple organisations can better understand the causes of homelessness and work together to address the root causes of this systemic problem, the company said in a statement.

Technology Lead of the End Street Sleeping Collaboration Stephen Wigney said, “We’re collecting a richer type of information, and it’s a way for us to encourage collaboration across not-for-profit organisations. We’re empowering the sector to act as a single coherent system.”

Frontline staff in homeless services collect information about an individual’s vulnerability and housing needs using the Vulnerability Index & Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT), a tool endorsed by the Institute of Global Homelessness. It is used to interview homeless individuals to understand their housing and support needs.

‘Applying this standard measure across the whole population is one of the key parts of the methodology. The BNL 2.0 app, with the VI-SPDAT survey at its heart, helps caseworkers assess a person’s vulnerability,’ Wigney added.

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