Figma, Photoshop, Illustrator
Adobe Aero, Adobe Dimension
Outreach workers attempt to close the gap between unsheltered people and their services, but they have trouble gaining this group's trust and staying in touch with them. As a result, unsheltered individuals lack access to and awareness of available services such as food, healthcare, and housing assistance.
How might we connect those who are unsheltered to their available resources, as well as facilitate connections with outreach workers?
Outreach workers based at designated card centers complete the onboarding process with the help of the client to personalize the cardholder’s information.
Clients are encouraged to check in to kiosks with their ID card as many days a week as possible in order to earn points. Points can be redeemed towards rewards such as free meals or transportation passes.
Kiosks provide directions to resources and have the capability to print them directly. Users can also message outreach workers, allowing them to build relationships at their own pace.
I learned there are two subgroups of the houseless population- sheltered and unsheltered.
Unsheltered people do not have access to the resources that shelters offer, such as case management or housing assistance, and their numbers are increasing in Dallas. Shelters are more than just a place to sleep; they bridge the gap between people who are houseless and the services they need to improve their situation. I wondered how the unsheltered were receiving help, but hadn't confirmed them as my user group yet. I needed to find out more about homelessness.
My biggest observational takeaway was that with the shelter and others around DFW operating at reduced capacities, more people were facing being unsheltered during the day and night.
This was the second time I was made aware of the difficulties that unsheltered people face. I spoke with five people who were staying at the shelter for the night to learn about the behaviors, feelings, and challenges that people who are houseless face. I discovered:
1. Houseless people believe they do not have adequate access to services and are unaware of what is available to them.
2. Outreach workers attempt to solve this problem.
This led me to question, if outreach workers exist to connect unsheltered to their resources, why do these individuals feel that they lack access to and knowledge of resources?
I discovered that outreach workers face three major obstacles when assisting the unsheltered population:
1. Building trust and rapport
2. Maintaining relationships
3. Providing individualized help for unique and variable needs
Without going to a shelter a person experiencing homelessness will struggle to find access and knowledge of life-changing resources. If outreach workers are unable to assist them, they have no access. Given that Dallas County is home to 1,619 unsheltered individuals, this is a massive problem.
I included an outreach worker identity because they were a stakeholder whose needs overlapped with those of my user groups.
Designing for the unsheltered houseless meant designing for outreach workers too. Outreach workers are a crucial link between the unsheltered and individualized support. My personas would serve a basepoint from which I'd be making all future design considerations.
After brainstorming, I decided to design an array of kiosks that would provide information on and directions to resources.
In addition, I would design a swipeable card that could earn rewards to incentivize kiosk use. A user would be able to sign up for a Here ID card at the kiosk. Kiosks would be placed in downtown Dallas hotspots where the unsheltered community congregates.
I began to sketch some ideas for how the kiosk might present itself. I had important considerations to make. It has to be easy to use, it has to have some modicum of privacy, and it has to be visible from a distance as to what it is.
I wanted the kiosk to have high learnability, so I created several distinct categories that users could use to find what they need easily.
I later amended these categories to add an option for family violence support, and switched "case management" with "housing", as case management would be handled by connecting with outreach workers through the kiosk.
All users liked the idea of a kiosk, as well as its ability to provide information on resources and provide directions to them, however I ran into a few issues brought up by my testers.
1. If users could receive a card onsite at the kiosk, what would stop anyone from receiving a card and using it to get free rewards? I added the necessity for users to go to a card center to receive a Here ID card, and the ability to find a card center within the kiosk.
2. Users wanted a way to be able to connect with outreach workers directly. Right now, the kiosk allowed outreach workers to better know their location, but what if they needed help with a specific issue or wanted to make a request? I added the ability for users to message an outreach worker whenever they need to.
3. Users wanted more options as far as transportation. I added more transportation options to be more inclusive, as some unsheltered houseless own a car or bike.
Learning to adapt can be crucial in less than ideal settings.
1. Guerilla research is a skill.
While creating Here, I didn't have easy access to my user group. I had to rely on guerilla methods to gain the research I needed, which taught me to be very savvy and resourceful. I crafted a lot of emails, relied on secondary research, and learned to improvise and conduct research on the spot to gain as much knowledge as possible with users who were difficult to track down.
2. Be prepared, but willing to adapt.
Interviewing and learning about my users was difficult because I didn't have much time with them and the settings we were in were very informal. I came prepared to interviews with scripts and specific questions, but found that whenever I treated the interview more conversationally I was able to extract insights that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. It wasn't ideal, but I had to adapt to my users in order to gain the information I needed, and in doing so learned the value of being flexible.