For Homeless Veterans, a REACHable Goal

Jonah Czerwinski and Peter Levin | VAntage Point | June 5, 2012

In March, the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) launched Project REACH with Jon Bon Jovi and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to put information about local homelessness resources into the hands of people who can help others in need.  We’re excited to announce the finalists today. They come from across the country, from Forest Hills, New York, to Kihei, Hawaii.  Their prototype mobile apps will compete for the $25,000 grand prize. Throughout the first round of competition, the REACH community moved us with their passion, creativity, and hard work on behalf of Veterans.

The finalists competed hard against a high bar and a tight timeline. They pulled all-nighters and all-weekenders; one finalized their submission while on vacation in the mountains of West Virginia.  Another finalist is donating the prize award to the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation and the EOD Memorial Foundation.  We have another whose son, an already skilled coder, will join the next phase of this contest as a service project.

During phase two of Project REACH, finalists compete for the grand prize by piloting their mobile applications at JBJ Soul Kitchen, a community restaurant in Monmouth County, New Jersey, where diners can cover the cost of their meals either through donation or volunteering.  The apps currently focus on Monmouth County, but REACH’s ultimate goal is a mobile app that allows anybody to locate points of service such as health clinics, food kitchens, or shelters with automatically updated availability, regardless of which city they’re in...