The city of Austin, Texas, is testing the use of blockchain technology as a potential solution to homeless identification problems.
Homeless individuals face issues accessing services, housing, medication, education etc., especially if their identification is lost and most of these individuals no longer have access to their government-issued ID and there is no easy way of acquiring a new copy. Blockchain technology is often discussed in terms of cryptocurrencies with the likes of Bitcoin, Onecoin and others. Government and other responsible private organisations are looking for all ways of putting blockchain technology to work in order to solve some of the society's biggest problems.
The Texan city is trying out the use of blockchain by homeless individuals as an ID management platform using a grant awarded by Bloomberg Philanthropies it has been officially announced. Bloomberg shows that, in Austin, more than 7,000 people are homeless and they experience a lot of delays in getting social help because of ID issues.
"If you have your backpack stolen or if your social security card gets wet and falls apart, or if you are camping and the city cleans up the site and takes your possessions, you have to start all over from the beginning again," Sly Majid, Austin's Chief Services Officer told Techcrunch. "It really prevents you from going about and doing the sort of activities that allow you to transition out of homelessness."
This test will include the use of blockchain components to create a very "unique identifier" for all homeless individuals. With this identifier, they will have access to their own personal records at any time they want and this identifier will be used when accessing services plus other necessary help and this project will operate for the next four years.
The blockchain identifier cannot be misplaced or damaged, unlike plastic cards and paper records. If all goes well, the technology could open the door to faster and more efficient medical services whereby medical records can be attached to the identifier enabling homeless individuals to acquire proper care for their conditions in the absence of physical records.
All in all, the City of Austin aims to use blockchain technology that can help in minimising or completely solving the problem of homelessness. Though Majid warned that this program is still in its infancy, he is hopeful that if all goes well the program will grow over time and it will be of great importance.