Meet the 2019 Community Fellows
Meet the Code for America Community Fellows who are helping transform government from the inside out.
In the City of Buffalo, one-third of all residents currently experience poverty. By the end of 2018, Buffalo saw increases in property taxes, garbage user fees, and water rates. The City has recently launched an affordable water program but the application to receive the annual benefit is only available as a PDF, which must be printed and mailed into the Buffalo Water Authority. Inspired by Code for America's GetCalFresh, Fellows Harshita Girase and Mike Brown plan to create a mobile-first web application designed for residents to apply for the program as well as upload required income documents.
Fellows Jill Bjers and Jeffery Carmichael are developing a customizable step-by-step roadmap to provide formerly incarcerated people to an easily accessible and navigable list resources specific to their needs.
The City of Durham lacks consistent expectations, methods, and tools for evaluating community engagement. Most of the impacts of inequitable community engagement and development affect low-wealth areas with limited resources to address the need for capacity building. Fellows Laura Biediger and Jacob Lerner will create a set of tools to gather demographic data during City engagement activities. These tools will help the City understand who is participating in City processes, and identify which methods are most effective in increasing equitable community engagement.
The existing re-entry program within the Indiana Department of Corrections (Indiana Women’s Prison and Madison Correctional Facility) falls far short in preparing incarcerated women for transitioning back into the free world, and even less assistance once released. Fellows Kristina Byers, Christina Kovats, and Michelle Jones are partnering with the Indiana Public Defenders Council and several graduate students from New York University to solve a major problem for formerly incarcerated people. This population typically exists in a siloed environment wherein information about resources and opportunity are discovered in fragments, usually by word of mouth. The team plans to create a digital resource guide that will immediately empower the target population to have the information they need at their fingertips to improve overall reentry outcomes. The Fellows, recently released and rich with lived experience, understand first-hand what is needed. The Team Indianapolis Fellows—replete with lived experience—recently launched the Code for Indianapolis Brigade. During their Fellowship, they will perform user-centered design to research and prototype resources to help post-incarcerated women to successfully transition back into society.
Team Santa Monica
Homeless and lower-income tenants looking for a place to rent in Santa Monica face a complicated and often frustrating process which rarely leads to their finding a place to live. Beyond a general lack of available housing in the city, the system is overly complex and difficult to navigate: there are a variety of routes and programs available to different tenants in different situations, application requirements can vary from one landlord to the next and going through local housing agencies is not always a guarantee for a simpler process. The goal of this project will be to outline key potential solutions (including the use of existing technological tools) to improve the outcomes of the housing application process for homeless and low-income tenants, while also improving their experience and that of landlords providing rental properties. By helping Santa Monica Housing Division simplify and accelerate the subsidized housing application process, we hope to create more opportunities for potential tenants. Not only would they be able to find housing faster, but our work could also potentially encourage more landlords to offer their properties for rental through the City of Santa Monica’s subsidized housing program, thereby providing more housing options to homeless and low-income tenants looking for housing in Santa Monica. Fellows Marie-Aimée Brajeux and Maile Malin plan to use a delivery-driven and user-centered approach to improve access to affordable and subsidized housing in Santa Monica for people experiencing homelessness, low-income families, and people with disabilities entitling them to subsidized housing. Along the way, they will build capacity within the Santa Monica Housing Authority and forge a strong, long-lasting relationship between the City of Santa Monica our Hack for LA Brigade, leading to other civic tech projects improving the delivery of government services in the area.
Finding affordable housing in Miami is hard. There needs to be a simple way for disadvantaged Miami residents to find affordable housing. A person seeking housing should be able to enter their information, such as needs and preferences, then be returned a listing of affordable housing options that suit them best. Fellows Gregory Johnson, Whitney Lubin, and Ezra Okuro, aim to help local government solve Affordable Housing needs by building on the work of 2018 Community Fellowship Team Austin to build an affordable housing data portal for the City of Miami.
Savannah's historically black, low-income Westside neighborhoods—whose residents make up 34 percent of the city's total population—face the most immediate and devastating impacts of Sea Level Rise (SLR) and coastal flooding on multiple levels. Because Savannah was originally settled on a large bluff at the mouth of the Savannah River, the wealthy, white, and tourist-filled Landmark Historic District closest to the ocean is, paradoxically, the last place in Chatham County that will experience SLR and coastal flooding. But West Savannah, much further inland, marks almost precisely where the bluff recedes again to below sea-level. Sea level sensors alone won’t save coastal areas. People will. Fellows Carl V. Lewis, Nichelle Stephens, and Rob Lingle will leverage local technology, service design, and community organizing talents—using iterative, data-driven, human-centered design methods—to make sea-level rise data useful and relevant for underserved and vulnerable populations in low lying areas of Coastal Georgia both in the short-term as severe weather events become more frequent and in the coming decade as sea-level rise continues to pose increasingly hazardous effects on certain communities.