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Ample Labs

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Founder: CG Chen

Website: (external link) 

A note from Ample Labs: The end of a chapter at Ample Labs (external link) 

We envision a world where no one has to face homelessness.

Ample Labs is a non-profit empowering those of us facing homelessness with technology.

Majority of individuals that are at-risk or recently fallen into homelessness have and use mobile phones; however finding services and learning about where you can go is not simple, right now 90% turn to Google and there is no place that can point people to life- saving services, that is the problem, ChalmersBot, Ample Labs’ flagship product aims to solve.

ChalmersBot was co-designed with the community here in Toronto. We co-designed this with individuals experiencing and have gone through episodes of homelessness. First we learnt that majority between 80%-90% of people experiencing homelessness have and use mobile phones. We then spent a year visiting shelters, going to drop-ins and facilitating co-design sessions and we learned that people wanted more than going to Google, people wanted to ask a question and get a response or get someone to take them through the steps when they first fall into homelessness because it is such a shameful, tough situation that people don’t know what to do or where to go. That’s when we created and tested a friendly conversational interface, a chatbot, people preferred it from talking to people, scrolling through directories and people appreciated that it was anonymous, that’s how our product started.

ChalmersBot, is a mobile friendly web-app that can help anybody in the city find free meals, overnight shelter, clothing banks, drop-ins and emergency shelters in real-time and uses your location. Overtime ChalmersBot will always be able to answer questions like

“What do I do if I receive an eviction notice?” And other more complex questions that someone may ask when they’re experiencing invisible homelessness.

We have an impact every time someone uses ChalmersBot to make a recommendation, by pointing people to where they can go to get help we help reduce the time and frustration someone may have during this transitional time where people most-often don’t know where to go or who to turn to nor understand how to navigate the system. We make tangible recommendations that speed up the time it would take someone to find what they’re looking for and answer questions people may have. All of this with the goal of helping people transition out of homelessness faster and get them to where to need to go quicker.

There is so much stigma around homelessness, and the fact that “homeless individuals don’t have cell-phones”. The truth is, what we see in the streets, people sleeping outside is just the tip of the iceberg of homelessness. Majority of people experiencing are invisible and in fact do have and use a mobile phone. It is really important that there is technology available to help people during this tough time of change, oftentimes overwhelming and don’t know what to do, that’s why it’s important that we are building technology that is accessible, inclusive and can help people navigate this time of transition.