Much is made about how mobile apps and tablets can boost enterprise productivity. But there's also another tablet productivity revolution growing --- one that helps social service agencies better aid the needy. Social service agencies can benefit significantly from custom mobile apps that aid them in their work. A prime example of mobile apps for social services is the work that Bill Hess has done to aid the homeless.
Hess is Director of Information Services for the Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), a non-profit agency that provides a wide range of services that prevent and break the cycle of homelessness for children, families, and adults. Traditionally, services have been provided from homeless service centers where clients go for shelter, receive help and meet with caseworkers. But a new model has sprung up: Housing First, an approach that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and then provides supportive services wherever the clients may be to help them keep their housing. For COTS, this means that caseworkers travel to the houses and apartments to meet with clients, and outreach workers travel around the city to where the homeless congregate.
But applications for caseworkers were originally designed for desktop computers, not mobile devices. So Hess decided to develop a suite of tablet-based applications that would help its caseworkers deliver mobile services to their clients.
How Alpha Anywhere Helped
Hess chose Alpha Anywhere for his work because of the ease with which it lets him develop tablet-based apps. He also chose it because he wanted to create mobile apps that could easily be maintained and updated by someone who does not have the same level of technical skills that he has.
"I have a background in software development, but these apps will be important for a long time. I want to create apps that someone without my expertise can still maintain. Alpha Anywhere is perfect for that," he explains.
With Alpha Anywhere, Hess is building a suite of apps designed to run on tablets that caseworkers can bring with them into the field. In the morning, caseworkers will sign into the app to see the appointments and work they have for the entire day. Also loaded in the app will be information about all of the clients they will be visiting and other data. All this saves a tremendous amount of paperwork and manual labor.
The app automatically records travel time and distances using the tablet's clock and geolocation capabilities. To record time spent in meetings or with clients, caseworkers need only tap buttons when the meetings start and end. At the end of the day, the caseworker syncs data from the tablet with the office network.
Hess is also writing a smartphone app that allows people in the community to provide COTS with information about individuals and areas in the town that need attention, such as homeless encampments, graffiti, and abandoned shopping carts. In addition to helping COTS provide better services, it also creates a bond between people in the community and COTS, which will lead to increased community involvement in solving the problem of homelessness.
"With the apps we're building with Alpha Anywhere, we're not just improving productivity and forging links with the community - we're offering better services to the homeless, which is the whole reason for our being," he concludes.
For more details, read the full case study here.