Blog Post

Apps for human services - a review of Chalmers bot

By: Marco Campana
February 2, 2020

You likely have seen some news about a new app to help people experiencing homelessness in Toronto find and access services - Chalmers Bot.

It's a great story.

Local tech folks, including some who have experienced homelessness, came together with organizations and people who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness, to build a technical solution to a system navigation problem.

Chalmers can help you find things like: free meals, overnight shelter, clothing banks, emergency contacts and can point you to offline and online mental health services. Bot creators ample labs are already working towards the most requested items like housing, eviction, employment, legal-aid, harm reduction, mental health services, and additional languages.

An article in the Toronto Star caught my eye:

Chalmers is particularly helpful for refugees, who make up about 40 per cent of shelter users, said Natasha Rollings with FCJ Refugee Centre.

“People who have made an asylum claim are not eligible for many services until they have regularized their status,” said Rollings, who has introduced it to many of her midtown Toronto clients. “This app can provide information on free services for everyone.

“There is no other place that I know of that is collecting this data and providing it to the community in such an immediate way,” she said.

I decided to dive in and try it out. Here's my assessment, along with a screen cast of me using Chalmers (best viewed full screen). I think you should try it out.

Read some of the media coverage and try it out:

If you're curious about how apps can make a difference, check out this article: Domestic Violence and Sex Trafficking Survivors Can Find Safe Shelter Quickly Through This App.

When working with vulnerable newcomers to build new solutions, this Inclusive Co-design Toolkit looks useful to make sure that any technology, such as an app, is created with the input of anyone you're serving and hope to use your tech.

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