Homeless App Wins L.A. 'Hackathon' While New City Website Suffers Glitches

Homeless App Wins L.A. 'Hackathon' While New City Website Suffers Glitches

A mobile app that provides homeless shelters a place to report their needs to restaurants and volunteer groups won first prize on Sunday at a Los Angeles “hackathon.” The app determines where the resources are most needed and enables supplies to be delivered quickly and efficiently.

The Los Angeles Times reported that “ShelterConnect” was created by a group of young people who are proud to point out that “We’re all in high school.” Zach Latta, who made the presentation for the app, and his three teammates will share the $3,000 for the top prize. Catherine Geanuracos, a cofounder of Hack for LA, applauded all of the 30 teams that participated, explaining that they are “part of an incredible, growing civic hacking culture in Los Angeles.”

The event that took place over the weekend is connected with the launch of the new city website which will help residents obtain information on stray animals, water usage, city-sponsored events, graffiti clean-up, bicycle lanes, and other services. According to the Times, the website will bring Los Angeles into a more transparent era for government, as it will give citizens a tool to extract data on a vast array of government and city statistics.

The competition was designed so that competing teams could use the website to furnish data for their app designs. However, many of the teams, including Zach Latta’s winning team, did not use the new website because it was not current with all available data sets related to homelessness. Moreover, the information the website did provide was not comprehensive enough. Instead, Zach’s team ended up using crowd-sourcing

Peter Marx, a technology officer for Mayor Eric Garcetti, asserted that the criticisms of the data sets are “exactly the sort of feedback” the city expects. “If we didn’t hear anything, we’d be worried,” he said. “In the government world, this is pretty extraordinarily fast-moving.”