Is Blockchain the Key to Supporting the Homeless?

Over 100 million people around the world will go to sleep tonight without a roof over their heads.

Homelessness is a growing problem throughout the world, and industrialized nations like the U.S. and Canada aren’t immune. There are over two million people experiencing homelessness in North America alone, and without the right support services in place, that number will only increase.

Fortunately, technology companies are in the middle of a full-fledged technological revolution that is changing the way we deliver healthcare and social services. The Silver Linings Initiative is one such example.

A New Approach to Social Support: The Silver Linings Initiative

The Silver Linings Initiative is the world’s first blockchain-based digital identity and marketplace solution designed specifically to empower and connect those experiencing homelessness. Envisioned by Troon Technologies, the Silver Linings Initiative aims to combat two of the biggest challenges experienced by the homeless population:

1.     Identity verification and acquisition of government identification;

2.     Access to, and awareness of, social support services.

This is managed through a proprietary software application that combines a user-friendly UX with the power of the blockchain to create a safe, secure, and trustworthy system of social support.

As Paul Dube explains, “The power of the distributed technology offered by Hyperledger Fabric to configure a solution for the social non-profit industry is the ability to track a single source of truth. This can be shared across all entities servicing the homeless, and limits the revictimization of those already in vulnerable situations.” 

How Does It Work?

The Silver Linings app relies on a multi-pronged approach that combines biometric authentication, decentralized data management, and traditional telemedicine to create a support marketplace unlike any other. Key components include:

  • Biometric sign-in features that guarantee secure access from any device;
  • Decentralized data storage via a blockchain that keeps users in control of what information is stored and shared;
  • Access to online marketplace resources geo-targeted to each user, including food, employment, healthcare, shelter, education, and more;
  • Virtual consultations with medical professionals delivered via mobile app;
  • Improved access to social programs for vulnerable populations requiring validated identity to participate;
  • The ability to identify individual attributes for each ID that facilitates improved handling of special needs, cultural sensitivities and unique challenges;
  • One single source of truth for an identity that can be holistically carried across social service entities.  

The Importance of Mobile Support Networks

It’s hard to overstate the potential that these social support solutions can have for improving health outcomes in populations experiencing homelessness. This is particularly true for mobile solutions.

Though mobile phones are often considered a luxury, most people experiencing homelessness still have access to them on a regular basis. In a survey of 421 such adults published in the Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 94% of respondents said they had their own phones. Given that people experiencing homelessness generally lack other essential resources, it’s clear that mobile devices have a role to play in distributing health and wellness services among these populations.

These sentiments are echoed by others who regularly work with people experiencing homelessness to deliver social support, such as Allen Baez, project manager for U.S.-based homelessness support service Mobile4All.

“Smartphones are incomparable tools for connecting people who are isolated, and empowering homeless and extreme-low-income individuals to access life-changing services and gain self-sufficiency,” said Baez.

The Silver Linings Initiative Advantage

The Silver Linings Initiative bridges the gap between homeless populations and essential social safety nets by examining the biggest challenges that homeless people face, and designing solutions around them.

For example, the United Way reports that one of the biggest hurdles to overcoming homelessness is, surprisingly, acquiring a government ID card. IDs are essential for receiving many of the social services designed specifically to benefit homeless populations, including government assistance, work placement, housing applications, medical care, and more. The Silver Linings Initiative tackles this roadblock in two ways.

  1. The information provided through the application process guides applicants through the government ID process.
  2. Once a blockchain-based ID is created, the individual owns that ID (as opposed to a government or institution). It’s existence and maintenance is not reliant on outside parties.

Additionally, by keeping all data in anonymous blockchain ledgers, users will be guaranteed confidentiality and privacy, no matter whose device they use or where they are when requesting care.

And while this is just one step of many towards eliminating homelessness, it’s an approach that taps into the existing resources of homeless populations, Canadian support networks, and Troon Technologies itself to provide a completely new type of care.

Lend your Support

If this initiative interests you, Troon would love to hear your thoughts. Please reach out to us for more information on how you can support the Silver Linings Initiative. Contact Paul Dube, Partner, Silver Linings Initiative, paul@troontechnologies.com.

About the Author

Paul Dube is Troon’s Chief Technology Officer and oversees all of Troon’s development work. Paul is passionate about solving problems using distributed technology to improve the lives of the most vulnerable populations, particularly improving access to a more holistic and sensitive social safety net.