Photos courtesy of HopeOneSource

HopeOneSource, a text message-based notification service targeted at homeless residents in D.C., has grown immensely since it started as a pilot program in September 2015 through D.C.’s Interagency Council on Homelessness.   

HopeOneSource, which is completely volunteer-run, has over 1,800 D.C. residents experiencing housing instability signed up to receive text message alerts pertaining to anything from the latest hours and locations of social services, such as food dispensers, when the hypothermia alert is active, and where to seek shelter.   

Over 200 services providers are connected through the service and approximately 500,000 texts of available services have been sent out as of winter 2018-2019. HopeOneSource is currently holding many outreach events with users of the service to determine their reach and impact.  

“We are finding many success stories of people using the tool and accessing the tool,” staid Frank Adames, an AmeriCorps VISTA working with HopeOneSource. “A lot of success stories we get are through outreach events.”  

At one of these outreach events, which Street Sense recently observed, four out of the five people using HopeOneSource were no longer experiencing homelessness, while four of them were when they had signed up. Ramondia had just stabilized her housing with help from HopeOneSource that day, stating the text messages connected her to food and job-training, and then stable housing. She had previously experienced homelessness for three years within D.C.  

When she first signed up to receive messages, she said, “We went from not knowing to knowing, and everyone was asking how we know this information.”  

Other attendees of the outreach event shared similar sentiments about sharing the information they receive in texts from HopeOneSource with their friends and people around them.   

“Our biggest fear early on was blasting out too many messages, but in reality, you all want more, as you’ve stated today,” said Tim Underwood, the founder of HopeOneSource. “We believe that a hyper-connected community that connects people and services is essential for sustainably ending homelessness. 

While conducting research for this story, Street Sense talked to several people experiencing homelessness in three different parts of Washington, D.C.: at the United Planning Organization bus stop in front of the Church of the Epiphany, at Miriam’s Kitchen in Foggy Bottom, and near the Tenleytown-AU Metro station.  

None of the people Street Sense talked to had heard about HopeOneSource, however, many were interested in the service and believe it would be useful for themselves.  In the future, HopeOneSource is looking to add additional features to their program, such as machine learning to further target messages for specific users and allowing users to respond to messages they receive. They are also looking to eventually expand to other cities, but they first want to make sure they are firmly rooted within D.C.  

“The goal is to first be wildly successful within D.C. and then expand to other cities,” Adames said. “We’re doing that very strategically.”