Direct giving to unhoused neighbors
Mobile app and responsive website
Role: UX research and design
Oakland, California is in the middle of a housing crisis.
Homeless encampments fill in the margins of the city as the cost of housing continues to soar. Shelters and social services are overwhelmed. Unhoused folks lack access to resources and cannot meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and clothing.
Researching the Problem Space
How do unhoused folks access the resources they need to survive and thrive? What are the gaps between what is offered to them and what is needed? Is there a way for housed community members to help out their fellow neighbors? I interviewed community members to find out.
Semi-structured 1-1 interviews
Length: 30-45 minutes
Video calls, recorded
One interview with each user type (giver and receiver) and one interview with a SME, a social worker
Thematic analysis, post-interviews
Key Insights from Interviews
J, formerly unhoused
“There’re a lot of handouts, but you have to take what you can get when you can get it. It doesn’t always match up with what you need at the moment. It’s like, they giving out apples but I got some dental issues so I can't bite into it. Or my glasses had broke and I already used up my benefits for the year so I need some help getting them fixed. If I could have asked someone for those types of things, it would have made my life so much easier.”
K, housed neighbor
“When I drive by the encampments I feel so sad and so powerless. I know that these people deserve housing and security, but I don’t know how to help. One time I helped pass out these bags with toiletries and snacks [at an encampment], but honestly, I’m not sure how much they were wanted, or needed. If there were a way to give people exactly what they need, that would be amazing.”
N, Social worker
“Getting unhoused folks connected to resources is a major challenge for everyone. It requires all sorts of pre-requisites most of us take for granted: Being able to fill out and turn in forms. Transportation from here to there. Waking up in the morning feeling good enough to do anything. And even if you can access the resources available to you, it doesn’t cover everything. There will always be gaps.”
After completing a thematic analysis of interviews, a potential solution emerged: Create a product that features a portable and public wishlist so that housed people can directly give unhoused people what they want and need.
Competitive Audit Highlights
Was anyone else trying out this wishlist idea in a digital space? I needed to find out before beginning ideation. Though no direct competitors were identified, several indirect competitors were analyzed.
Inspirational idea: Allowing "samaritans" to give money directly to individuals in need.
Inspirational idea: Allowing the unhoused to share their stories.
Inspirational idea: Neighbors helping neighbors to address financial inequity and build community.
How might we allow housed community members to gift unhoused community members items from their wishlist?
Gifters have an opportunity to emotionally connect with potential recipients by hearing their story before viewing their wishlist
Gifters can keep track of their gifting history on their "stats" page
Gifters can include a personal note with their gift
Gifters can choose the gift delivery method that works best for them
Wireframes and Lo-Fi Prototype
Wireframes fleshed out the essential user flow of gifting.
Browse unhoused community member profiles
Choose a gift recipient
Choose delivery method
Before moving into Hi-Fi design, it was important to conduct usability testing of the Lo-Fi prototype, to identify any major flaws and potential improvements.
Unmoderated usability study
5 adults with diverse backgrounds
United States, remote
Usability Study Findings
Users need at least two confirmation screens after choosing to gift in order to feel reassured that their choice has been registered.
After completing the flow users want to reflect on their gifting history, in order to increase their sense of generosity and satisfaction.
Users want a way to save profiles of unhoused individuals, so that they can follow their story and gift later.
Integrating feedback from usability studies and adding a little color. Ensuring accessibility according to WCAG 2.1 guidelines. And of course, another quick usability study.
Gifters and unhoused community members can use the website to create a profile, learn more about the Give/Get program, browse profiles, and give gifts.
The emotional response from housed users was profound. They shared hope, optimism, and excitement. It is clear that most of us would love the opportunity to be generous towards unhoused members of our community.
Give/Get also offers unhoused users an opportunity to share their stories and ask for what they need, with dignity and respect for their humanity.
Identify a partner organization in the community currently working with unhoused community members for collaboration.
Build a Team
Build a team of volunteer developers and a project manager to bring Give/Get to life.
Recruit housed and unhoused community members to participate in a pilot program.