Local grass roots organization Street Roots addresses homelessness and poverty in the Portland area with their Rose City Resource Guide (RCRG), the most comprehensive, updated list of services for people in need in Multnomah and Washington counties. The RCRG has been published as a bi-annually published paper guide for over a decade, but until now never existed as a digital tool. With the advent of COVID-19 pushing those experiencing homelessness and poverty further into crisis, Street Roots saw the need to provide frequently updated information about shelters, meals, clothing, recovery, counseling and many other services to their community, but knew that this would be impossible to do with the paper version of the guide.
In 2018, Mapping Action Collective partnered with Street Roots to create an interactive web mapping tool and search engine as a pilot project, known as the “Rose City Resource Online” (RCR Online). This March, Street Roots and MAC partnered again to adapt the RCR Online into a Covid response tool. This online app will help people immediately see Street Roots’ complete, updated listing of services, along with notices pertaining to the pandemic response. Many programs have reduced hours or closed facilities altogether. Others are modifying services to continue helping people while following health and safety protocols. Like the print edition of Rose City Resource, this online application is an easy-to-navigate resource to find assistance on housing. The digital Rose City Resource also includes new shelter and emergency resources that have emerged in response to the pandemic crisis.
The tool was created in a collaborative effort by MAC and Street Roots staff, with members of both organizations working together to navigate the ins and outs of web development, data management, and data communication, in order to create a tool that is accurate, accessible, and easy for Street Roots staff and volunteers to use and update. Most importantly, MAC wanted the tool to be useful to the community that Street Roots serves. To get feedback on the usability of the RCRG Online, MAC staff dropped into Street Roots HQ to test the tool with vendors and other folks who dropped in to get coffee or use the restroom, as well as testing it with Street Roots volunteers. MAC took this feedback and integrated it into the development of the tool. The end result was a tool that was collaboratively created with the community it was intended to serve – designed to be easy to use, and functional for any member of the community to use to get up-to-date information about shelters, meals, clothing, recovery, counseling and many other services during the Covid 19 pandemic.