Nina O. Miranda
Special to Colorado Community Media
The idea behind Raj Lanka’s mobile phone app grew out of his own doubts after interacting with a downtown Denver panhandler.
It was back in 2014 and Lanka was on his way to work one morning when he approached by the man. Lanka handed over a couple of dollars because he knew what it was like to be strapped. But Lanka had him stumble out of a liquor store a few hours later.
“I asked myself if I’d just helped him hurt himself,” Lanka said. “Did I spoil him by giving him money? Then I thought if I could show him how to give him access to service providers, would that have been better? I wondered how I could really help him.”
That’s when he began plotting for Strappd, a mobile application that collects information about Colorado’s network of crisis centers, shelters, clothing sites and more for those in need.
Lanka’s research led him to a National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health study that showed 46.7 percent of runaway and homeless youth owned a mobile phone and a majority of those devices were smartphones. That rate was even higher nationally.
He saw his opportunity.
“I have experience as a software developer and I’m a database administrator, so I thought I could create an app,” he said.
He built a prototype and began showing it around various agencies.
“I sent an email to some providers and then a few administrators replied with interest and said let’s discuss more. So, we met, I received feedback, and then I got direct input from the homeless users on the 16th Street Mall.”
Today, 600 registered users are using of the app and he expects it will get more popular as more service providers are integrated into the resource library.
“I thought the app would work better if I could connect the service providers directly to the homeless,” he said. ”So, I’ve sent emails to service providers to log in and once they create/sign up for an account, then they will receive push notifications based on a user’s location; they can connect directly to each other.”
Today the app provides a list of soup kitchens, domestic violence services, mental health centers, free health clinics, and clothing resources for all homeless youth across the States and serves a broader audience for all low-income families, not just for youth, in Colorado specifically.
The mobile app has been released for Android and iPhone iOS in 2018.
Next development steps involve partnering with Boulder Community representatives, reaching out to other service providers to gain more traction, and translating content for Spanish-speaking users.
Strappd, the mobile app, is a free download from your mobile store. For more information, visit http://www.strappd.org or check out the Strappd Facebook page or Twitter Feed @StrappdApp.