Design, Technology, and Innovation Projects

The MyPass project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Pioneering Ideas in Technology and Health Grant, will create a blockchain-enabled platform that stores, secures, validates, and automatically packages personal documents, facilitating resident access to social and health services especially vital to ending homelessness, such as housing, benefits, and access to medical care.

During the one year grant period, the project team will work with clients and service providers to develop and test a minimum viable product for a blockchain-based digital platform (MyPass) that will allow people experiencing homelessness to securely and permanently store, validate, and automatically package and submit information needed to access health and social services.

Digital documents will be linked to an account accessible on any device, and a client will always retain complete ownership of personal information, even after no longer being homeless or after receiving care from providers, and will be able to remove any reference to personal data from the blockchain platform at any time.

MyPass is intended to empower clients with their own history, enable self-advocacy, and catalyze client-centered care.

Interested in joining the MyPass project team? Check out our recruiting page

Why MyPass?

50% of people experiencing homelessness who seek access to 13 vital services lack an ID; and it takes 2-4 weeks to replace an ID document. This greatly increases the time to service, especially when multiple documents are needed for eligibility.

“I have most of my documentation. I am waiting for my birth certificate in mail so I can get my other documents.” - person experiencing homelessness

When you’re forced to live on the street, it can be difficult to maintain identification documents, if you ever had them at all.

“Never had an ID, documents, birth certificate. Lost those documents in foster care.” - person experiencing homelessness

Service providers told us this idea will positively impact homelessness services by helping them gain efficiency. For example, two local service providers spend an estimated $20,000 annually on document replacement assistance.

Our neighbors experiencing homelessness told us it would give them more agency and control and less worry. This small act of a digital ID can save lives.

And finally, MyPass can scale. The Texas Homelessness Network told us how the platform that can help a broader population state-wide.

What Success Looks Like

There are several parameters of success for the MyPass project during the grant period and beyond. Here are a few that are top of mind:

Efficiency of social service delivery: reduced rate of time from initial user input to provider acceptance for a service

  • Reducing this time expedites the process of receiving services, prevents further deterioration, increases trust in the system, and reduces costs on the system.
  • Trusted digital versions of documents, together with further smart contract development for benefits packages, would cut budget lines significantly, and create additional capacity in homelessness services.
  • “Substance abuse treatment depends on the type of insurance client has. MAP or no insurance they go to the Alameda House, if they have Medicaid they go to Austin Recovery or another org that takes Medicaid.” - case manager on the type of navigation they have to do

Increased control, agency, motivation: reduction in time for people to self-resolve their condition of homelessness

  • “Shows that you’ve taken initiative to take care of your own healthcare” [so you don’t have to worry about bias in ER].
  • “A way to prove to people I’ve been doing things.”
  • “With the help of this solution, homeless people don’t have to worry as much.”
  • “The most important card is my Art from the Streets card because you begin to feel like you’re somebody.”

Serve broader need: Scaling to 10% of those below the poverty line will help prevent homelessness to help with eligibility for:

  • Rental Assistance programs
  • Training and Workforce Development programs
  • Home Repair programs

How We Got to Now

Though still in its early stages, the MyPass project has a strong history with community members and partners. The project began through the Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge Grant, which the Office of the Mayor, City of Austin Office of Innovation, Dell Medical School used to work with community members to research and develop the concept.

The culmination of this work was the Mayor’s Blockchain Challenge Hackathon held in July of 2018. Teams of designers and developers worked alongside people with lived experience of homelessness and social service provdiers to explore crucial aspects of the platform such as access, authentication, storage, privacy, automation, and the appropriateness of blockchain. By the end of the hackathon, we proved several concepts that together will form the backbone of the MyPass MVP. Though we did not receive additional funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies to contine the work, we had the validation and partnerships needed to move forward.

In June 2019 the City of Austin Innovation Office was awarded a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foudnation to develop the MyPass platform MVP. We are excited to continue working with the Austin community, as well as partners like ID2020, in helping our neighbors sercure their identity and access the servies they need. We held a kickoff workshop to start this phase of the project, and you can see our slides and note from that event here.