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What do homelessness, mobile apps and rock music have in common? They’re all part of Project REACH (Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless), a mobile app development program launched jointly by the Veterans Affairs Department and New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi.
In March, the VA partnered with Bon Jovi’s charitable organization, the JBJ Soul Foundation, as well as the Departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development, to serve up a unique challenge to app developers: Build a mobile app to help homeless people locate food, shelter and other services.
In June, Project REACH awarded $10,000 cash prizes to five mobile app developers who will compete for the grand prize of $25,000. The winner will be the developer who can build an app that scales to a national level, connecting the homeless — one out of six of whom is a veteran — with food kitchens, health clinics, housing services and other resources.
“We all use smartphones, tablets or laptops to check the score of a game or to text our friends,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “These bright minds will develop a tool that can actually connect homeless veterans with the help they need to move beyond a life on the streets.”