Sahana Awarded Grant by Open Referral for AirTable-Powered Homeless Services Directories in New York City

The following proposal won a micro-grant from the Open Referral Project in December, 2017, and is now underway in New York City. Learn more at our Open Referral NYC project page.

AirTable-Powered Open Referral API for Homeless Services in NYC

By Devin Balkind, President, Sahana Software Foundation,

AirTable is a free SaaS software solution that allows people to create their own databases using a familiar spreadsheet-style interface. Data in these systems is then made available via API, and can also be embedded in webpages. The system’s ease-of-use makes it an ideal backend for managing datasets that are too complex to be managed in a conventional spreadsheet.

For this project, we will train a group of social workers at a homeless shelter to use an AirTable backend to share HSDS-compliant resource information with each other. We will also create a url that allows the public to view some or all of the resource data

Project objective

  • Produce an AirTable-based implementation of HSDS.
  • Create an API “facade” for the AirTable, allowing it to output HSDA v1.2.
  • Produce a training for frontline volunteers and social workers explaining how they can use AirTable to share Open Referral information.
  • Organize an event for volunteers and social workers to share resources via the AirTable.
  • Collect feedback from volunteers and social workers about AirTable usability.

User stories

  • As a social service worker, I want to be able to share a resource directory with my peers so that we can aggregate our individual resource lists into a single, shared one.
  • As a volunteer information manager, I want to input sets of data in bulk from other resource directory spreadsheets, and clean it up so that it is consistent and more manageable moving forward..
  • As a person experiencing homelessness, I want to be able to use my smartphone to access information about services available to me so I can find information myself without having to speak with a social service worker.
  • As a software developer, I want to be able to access HSDA so that I can build a simple app that displays a list of social services for homeless people in my area.

Testable hypothesis and/or questions you seek to answer.

  • Existing (manually managed) directory data can fit into the HSDS AirTable.
  • Social workers will prefer collaborating on data management with AirTable instead of  their previous spreadsheets and docs.
  • Social workers will use the resource data in Airtable to make effective referrals.
  • If a view only version of the AirTable is made available to the public, will they use it and find it useful?
  • What changes will social workers want to make to the AirTable data structure to make it more useful to them and easier to use? Will this include public and private fieldsets? Will they want to embed segments on websites?

Learn more at our Open Referral NYC project page.

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