December 11th, 2018

App aims to provide one stop for all community services

By Collin Gallant on January 10, 2018.


cgallant@medicinehatnews.com
@CollinGallant

If you’re looking to access community services, need help or are having trouble making ends meet, starting next week there will be an app for that, it was announced at Monday night’s city council meeting.

A presentation to update city government on the progress of the Thrive initiative led to the announcement that one of the co-authors of its founding report has developed a web-based program to centralize information regarding community supports.

Alina Turner helped write a strategy document the local group hopes will reduce poverty and increase well-being over the next 13 years.

She said Monday that a starting point is to give those who need help a “one-stop” destination to learn what’s available and how to access services.

“This community has a history of finding innovative solutions,” said Turner, while presenting alongside recently hired Thrive executive director Karen Danielson.

“Rather than everyone having one list of the their own services, there would be one list of everyone’s services,” she said.

That could include information and contact information for a range of services, from those seeking to flee domestic violence, in need of the Food Bank, or those looking for low-cost recreation options. It would be up to specific organizations to sign on with the effort.

The app, or computer application, will be known as “helpseeker.org” and be accessible either on smart phones or traditional computers.

“We know that people living in poverty today have significant access to technology,” she said, citing personal phones, free Internet access provided at public libraries, or when dealing with specific agencies.

Coun. Julie Friesen said that over the years many attempts had been made to give the public a single entry point to access services, but many had dropped off.

“I do see real potential in this because it is so easy to update and especially if there is a driving force behind it,” said Friesen.

Turner said the city could help by requiring any agency that receives grants from or through the city to sign up for the service.

The program was developed and is owned by Turner, council heard. Agencies can sign on to the system for a $10 annual fee, which Turner said recovers the cost of maintaining and hosting the site. She hopes the program can eventually be transplanted and set up to other communities.

Thrive launched last February, stating that by extending the principles of the poverty reduction strategy and better co-ordinating existing resources, many effects of poverty could be reduced or eliminated by 2030.

Danielson also outlined membership of the group’s board who were in attendance.

They included Mayor Ted Clugston, former city councillor and current food bank executive co-director Celina Symmonds, former Chamber of Commerce president Chris Hellman, Medicine Hat College president Denise Henning and Medicine Hat Community Housing manager Jaime Rogers.

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