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Thursday 17 October 2019

Dublin charity partners with UCD student's app which allows rough sleepers to be reported to homelessness organisations

Inner City Helping Homeless, Councillor Anthony Flynn. Credit: Mick Carolan
Inner City Helping Homeless, Councillor Anthony Flynn. Credit: Mick Carolan

Gabija Gataveckaite

A HOMELESSNESS charity has partnered with an app created by a UCD student which allows the reporting of rough sleepers to homelessness organisations.

Inner City Helping Homeless Dublin has partnered with Dilate, an app created by second year radiography student in UCD, Padraig Spillane (19).

The app allows passers-by to report a rough sleeper to homelessness organisations so that outreach teams can be sent to the location with sleeping bags, food, water or even warm clothes.

Dilate was created and launched solely by Mr Spillane, who is a self-taught coder from Waterford.

"I took up programming when I was 16 and I taught myself everything," he said.

"There's a big difference between the number of rough sleepers in Waterford and Dublin, so I wanted to make a difference."

He got the urge to take action when he moved to Dublin to attend university and saw rough sleepers in the city centre.

"I had the idea for the app last year. I live in the northside so I pass by all the main streets on the bus and there's a lot of homeless people on the streets.

"There are vans organised by charities that go out and meet people who are sleeping rough but there isn't a proper service. You can also report rough sleepers to organisations over the phone, but sending a message is much faster."

Inspired by taxi apps which track both the taxi and the passenger using GPS, Mr Spillane said he wanted to do something similar.

"If we can track taxis, we can track homeless people," he said.

He then set about creating the app, which took several months and it had an early launch in June.

Dilate has now partnered up with Inner City Helping Homeless Dublin, a charity which provides several soup runs and services to rough sleepers.

"Inner City Helping Homeless have access to the live feed on the app," explained Mr Spillane.

"When a passer-by reports a rough sleeper, the location is sent to the charity, and you can also send a short message saying what you saw.

"The app then takes the time, date, longitude and latitude and sends it to the charity."

It takes ten seconds to locate and have substantial information to where the homeless person is. The charity can then attend to the person, tracking their whereabouts using GPS.

"The app is active every day of the week and we've put up posters all over the UCD campus to encourage people to use it," he said.

Mr Spillane added that he thinks young people are more likely to report rough sleepers.

"Young people are always on their phone and it takes a couple of seconds to report someone. Students are also great for pushing change," he added.

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