Tori Lynn, a student in the Department of Health Sciences, has co-founded an app to help the homeless stay up-to-date on news about COVID-19. Lynn, along with biomed students Jacob Braun and Kayla Shepherd, developed the app named “Resource,” when they realized the needs of the homeless were being overlooked in the ever-changing flow of information about the global pandemic.
The trio was recently selected as Clinton Global Initiative Scholars in recognition of their work with the app, and they also received a $2,000 grant from J.P. Realtors for their work to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
Lynn was already doing outreach with the homeless through Hearts for the Homeless, an international organization that was founded in 2016 by UCF students to provide free heart health screenings, education, and clinical outreach to the homeless.
Lynn’s experience with the organization showed her that the homeless were often unaware of the multitude of resources that were available to them, and they did not have good communication systems to warn about dangerous situations, like a storm or the pandemic. She felt an app specifically tailored to homeless people’s needs would save lives.
Features of the app include locations for nearby vaccines and COVID-19 testing sites, Lynn says, as well as an interactive screening questionnaire from the CDC, with information on what to do if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. The app will also provide storm warnings and connection to shelters and services for the homeless who live in disaster-prone communities in the Hearts for the Homeless service areas.
Lynn and her colleagues conducted a feasibility study before building the app. Nearly 80 percent of the homeless were interested in receiving COVID-19 updates, Lynn says, and 85 percent of them have smart phones that would allow them to access the app.
“Resource” will be available for download this summer initially in Orlando, Boston, Dallas and Chapel Hill, Lynn says.
“Our long-term goal is to partner with other organizations that serve the homeless and include their events in our app,” Lynn says. “I think this novel idea could change the world.”