Reaching Out to Fight Veteran Homelessness

The White House would like to congratulate the finalists dedicated to providing resources to our homeless veterans. On March 19, 2012, the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) launched Project REACH (Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless), which involved public and nonprofit collaboration between the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and the Jon Bon Jovi (JBJ) Soul Foundation.

VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould, Mr. Bon Jovi, and HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones announced the finalists today at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Data Initiative Forum in Washington D.C., and each finalist received a $10,000 prize.

Project REACH challenges the nation’s developers to create a convenient mobile application so that local resources are available to those who need them most – our homeless veterans. The ultimate goal is to create a national platform that allows for identifying available services such as health clinics, food kitchens, housing services, and shelters at any location around the country.

These finalists were chosen because they were the first five contestants to meet the selection criteria as outlined on www.reachthehomeless.challenge.gov. Simply put, they provided a free, broadly accessible application that produces real or near real-time information on where someone can find a bed, a place to eat, or seek medical services. A pilot program between Veterans Affairs and Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation will select a program among this list of finalists that can be scaled nationwide.

The five REACH finalists are:

Finalist #1
Leads:  Robert Damashek, Corey Brown
Organization:  Binary Group
Location:  Arlington, VA
Find out more: http://projectreach.binarygroup.com

Finalist #2
Leads: John McCarthy
Location: Forest Hills, NY
Find out more: http://sherlockhomeless.org

Finalist #3
Leads: Jessi Schoenleber, Joe Nicosia
Organization: JJAppCo, LLC
Location: Manchester, NJ
Find out more: http://homelesshelper.us/

Finalist #4
Leads: Joshua Temkin and Jim Homer
Organization: Qbase
Location: Reston, VA
Find out more: https://challenge.qbaseit.com/reach

Finalist #5
Leads: Mike McDougall
Organization: Makani Kai Tech
Location: Kihei, Hawaii
Find out more: http://www.helpbeacon.org

In the second phase of Project REACH, the five finalists will compete for a $25,000 grand prize by piloting their mobile applications at JBJ Soul Kitchen, a community restaurant in Monmouth County, New Jersey, where diners can cover the cost of their meals either through donation or volunteering. Volunteers and diners frequently need services these apps are designed to locate.

Jon Bon Jovi, a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions and founder of the JBJ Soul Foundation, said, “The idea that we could have a simple, free, user-friendly application that connects those in need to vital resources – shelter, healthcare, food – so well and so quickly is truly amazing. Testing them at the Soul Kitchen will bring out the best among the finalists.” Judging criteria for the second round will focus on each application’s ability to dynamically update the availability of housing, shelter, and other services near Monmouth County, NJ, as well as some basic performance criteria as described on www.reachthehomeless.challenge.gov.

We thank each of the finalists for their commitment to our nation’s veterans through these innovative applications. An America that is built to last thanks to you!

Rosye Cloud is the Director of Policy for Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families
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