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Friday 19 July 2019

Padraig invents app to get help to rough sleepers

Padraig Spillane with his app for outreach workers
Padraig Spillane with his app for outreach workers

A first-year UCD student has come up with an ingenious idea to help the homeless.

Padraig Spillane (19), from Waterford, developed an app to identify where people are sleeping rough, and believes it could help save lives.

Since moving to Dublin in September, he has been busy using his technical skills to design the application.

The non-profit Dilate all-ows the public to sign up and take part in the initiative by using the app when they spot someone living on the streets.

Once a person is logged in, the app tracks the user from within 10 metres, so when they see someone sleeping in a doorway they can go on to the app and press a button to provide homeless responders with information.

"It's basically a map to bring help to the rough sleeper," Padraig said.

Outreach group Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) is now trialling the app, and the public can download it.

Resources

"The issue is too many people are just walking by when they see a homeless person living on the street," Padraig said.

"Some might give the homeless person €2, but outreach teams can give them food and sleeping bags if they know where they are.

"Once the system builds up, we'll also have an idea of where the main spots for rough sleepers are in the city, and this could help with encouraging more resources to be placed in specific areas."

Padraig hopes that, with public interest, more groups will participate, including official homeless services and charities.

"Homelessness in Ireland is huge now. The number of people homeless has risen to more than 10,000 and we have to start thinking of how we can help this societal issue with technology," Padraig said.

"When I moved to Dublin I couldn't believe how many people were sleeping rough.

"I walk down the street and can see 20 to 25 people sleeping in doorways in Dublin city centre at night.

"You wouldn't wish that on your family or anyone.

"When we look at our families, we should think we would want someone to help them if they were in crisis.

"I didn't design the app for personal financial gain. I'd rather have a positive effect on society."

When he was 16, Padraig designed an app to help other teenagers with mental health issues, and he has been busy coming up with other helpful ideas since.

A spokeswoman for Dublin Regional Homeless Executive said the group had been "exploring" the possibility of using an app, and it comm- ended Padraig for his project.

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