In a 3-day competition, we researched the Pittsburgh homeless sheltering system and designed Porchlight, a concept for an Airbnb-like service for the homeless. Porchlight alleviates pressures on shelters by finding newly homeless individuals housing in volunteered spare bedrooms.
2 days, October 2014
3rd Place at the Innovation Palooza Impact-a-thon competition
Jason Azares, Ron Kim, Jim Martin, Michael Richardson
Survey Design and Analysis
Presentation to Judges
We interviewed two formerly homeless individuals
A house fire forced his family to live in a trailer home. Luckily it was during the summer when he and his siblings weren’t in school so they could park it in camping grounds.
A home foreclosure forced her parents, two siblings, and a dog to live in a Super 8 hotel for three months. She lived with a family friend an hour away from her high school.
According to the interviewees, what the newly homeless really need is normalcy*
Many newly homeless individuals stay with family and friends. But, this is not always possible.
Not living in a tent on the streets Avoiding the highly regimented environments of homeless shelters
Staying in the same neighborhood
Keeping an existing job without having to travel far Kids remaining in the same school
Not being subjected to the shame of being homeless Keeping homeless status private
*Defined by the formerly homeless individuals we interviewed
What does a temporary, home-away-from-home look like?
We had our doubts…would people open their homes to the newly homeless?
In our survey of 114 individuals, 26% indicated that they are interested in opening their homes to newly homeless individuals.
Shared economy services like Airbnb and Uber are becoming increasingly popular. People are becoming more receptive to interacting with strangers and sharing assets.
Porchlight is an Airbnb-like service that helps case managers connect newly homeless individuals with generous homeowners.
Follow case manager Kelly through her use of Porchlight to help Jane find housing
1. Notifications tell the case manager what to do next. Kelly decides to finish Jane’s verification.
2. Kelly reviews and signs off on Porchlight’s automatic criminal background check and the guest’s submitted references and social media accounts.
3. Porchlight helps Kelly communicate with Jane by prompting messages after each step in the process.
4. Porchlight uses an algorithm to recommend homeowners for each guest.
5. The case manager selects the best match, Rhonda. Rhonda’s spare bedroom is available now, only 5.3 miles away, and Rhonda is also a Christian like Jane.
6. Again, Porchlight helps Kelly send a quick message the homeowner. This time, the message automatically includes a link to an anonymized version of Jane’s guest profile for Rhonda to review before accepting the stay.
7. While Kelly waits for the homeowner to accept the placement, she can do other work. Porchlight will alert her when Rhonda accepts or the request expires.
8. When the homeowner Rhonda accepts the placement, she and Jane receives each other’s contact information. They get in call each other and set up a time for Jane to arrive.
9. The case manager checks in periodically to see how the stay is going. After the stay, Rhonda and Jane will rate each other.
Three Design Challenges and Our Solutions
1. Make good matches for homeless individuals and homeowners while maintaining their privacy
2. Ensure peace of mind for the homeless and homeowners
3. Help case managers provide a personalized experience
Interview with a case manager
Interviews with 2 formerly homeless individuals
Survey to see if homeowners would volunteer
Many homeowners are willing to shelter
Ranked motivations show that financial incentives are not the most important
- Helping people to find shelters during emergencies
- Helping people in need
- Monetary compensation
- Utility discounts
- Tax breaks
- Meeting new people
Some homeowners show preferences for certain guest characteristics
- Families whose homes are destroyed by fire or storms
- Women who suffered from domestic abuse
- Children who are accompanied by adults
Low-fidelity prototype to gain feedback
With a teammate, I sketched the initial prototypes to lay out the vision. Because the competition was only 2 days long, we did not have time to revisit the users and, instead, received feedback from 3 peers.
Based on feedback, we made improvements to make placements more efficient with a streamlined workflow and use more types of verification for safety.
Mid-fidelity prototype as a presentation tool
A teammate was the visual designer of the mid-fidelity prototype. We created this version as a presentation tool that helped judges visualize a final product. It was made simultaneously as we created the low-fidelity sketches so it’s not a second version.
This prototype’s use of colors and image assets convey a trustworthy tone and puts people at the forefront of the service.