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May 8, 2017 10:00 am

This resource map for youth exiting foster care is live

“I thought of all the times this could have been an invaluable tool for those days when I needed support or something to eat,” said one former homeless youth who helped create Youth Matters Philly.

Youth Matters Philly on a web browser.

(Screenshot via YouthMattersPhilly.org)

Kicking off National Foster Care Month, the launch of a web app hopes to empower young people in Philadelphia exiting foster care.

Youth Matters Philly, an app to help youth find local resources like shelters and food banks, was officially launched Monday, May 1, during a press conference with city officials and those involved in the development of the app, including staffers at the Juvenile Law Center, faculty and students from University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and Hack4Impact.

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We’ve talked before about the difficulties youth in foster care go through once they turn 18, especially without the support of an older guardian. Stoneleigh Foundation fellow Dominique Mikell, one of the collaborators on the app, said that this online resource will hopefully be one part of a bigger solution in showing that the “well-being and futures of youth matter in Philly,” she said at the press conference.

According to Marcia Hopkins, the youth advocacy program manager at Juvenile Law Center, about 25,000 young people age out of foster care nationally every year and it’s 200 per year in Philadelphia.

One of those people were Anthony Simpson, a former homeless youth who also helped in recommending resources to be included in the app.

"This could have been an invaluable tool for those days when I needed support or something to eat."
Anthony Simpson

“I thought of all the times this could have been an invaluable tool for those days when I needed support or something to eat, a place to change my clothes or even have someone to talk to,” Simpson said.

In a comment reminiscent of a #PTW17 panel on the social impact of tech, Councilwoman Helen Gym spoke to the importance of innovations in tech being developed for improving Philly residents’ lives.

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“We actually need the kind of technology that connects us to one another, that helps us access the resources and services that we need and are geared and designed for our most vulnerable citizens,” Gym said. “That is the technology that is truly innovative.”

The point of making the app a mobile-friendly experience was to cater to how, for homeless youth like Simpson, “a cellphone is life,” and it’s that people-centered way of thinking that Simpson says is needed to help destigmatize what “homeless” means and looks like.

“For many of us, the word ‘homeless’ conjures images of ragged clothes and being lethargic,” Simpson said. “This stigma has a massive impact on the prevention and direct treatment of youth homelessness.”

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