Humanity Housing

An Open Data Approach to Homelessness

Homelessness isn’t contained to the Downtown Eastside, it is a problem that impacts the entire Metro region.  The Humanity Housing project began in April 2013 to begin pulling together different kinds of urban data that could develop into a new, open service for those in need.   If you’re homeless in Vancouver you face a complexity of independent facilities, resources and agencies who operate without coordinated street-level information, and without big-picture analysis.  Humanity Housing‘s first objective is to connect housing advocates to the information they require, and to serve the people who need it most.  The project will then open to broader data sets and citizens to strive for collective, sustainable solutions to homelessness.


KEYWORDS:  citizen engagement, homelessness, community, urban planning
AUDIENCE:   People in need, together with the advocates and agencies who serve them
PARTNER/HOST:   In development (group of organizations including the Portland Hotel Society(PHS)
PARTICIPANTS:  Community organizations, societies, governments and citizens.
PROJECT LEAD:  Mikale Fenton, Humanity Housing
PROJECT STATUS:  In development; initial prototype in hand.

Urban Opus Rationale

Humanity Housing is a compelling rationale for Urban Opus in that no single organization has sufficient data, capacity or trust to effect a collective solution to this chronic urban challenge.  Only a new, neutral organization like Urban Opus could earn the trust and open the data channels to facilitate collective solutions.  In addition, homelessness is woven tightly into the broader fabric of community and economic development in ways that will be better understood through the research, analysis and visualization possible across multiple urban data streams in the Urban Opus Datahub.


Humanity Housing began at the Portland Hotel Society’s Lifeskills Centre as an effort to update an ad hoc assortment of outdated spreadsheets and call lists used to located available Downtown Eastside hotels and SROs.  The objective was to additionally record  relevant amenity information such as wheelchair accessibility, tenancy requirements (gender, age, income, pets, etc) and application processes.  It became clear that PHS and similar housing advocacy organizations shared a set of operational issues – such as wasting countless hours calling landlords who are unable to help them – which could be resolved with facilitated access to collected and open data.

As a first benefit, Humanity Housing will enable efficient, street-level deliver of services, productive communications and an amalgamation of resources among advocacy groups seeking to serve those in need to find best-suited accommodation. Up-to-date information will be open independently to individuals as well, including printed summaries for people without computer access and skills, as a means to empower community members to help themselves.  A review and rating feature will help to keep landlords accountable and to increase transparency by providing records of tenant requests, complaints and recommendations.

Humanity Housing‘s interactive map will allow users to filter searches by location and other criteria across all of Metro Vancouver.  The large objective is to begin understanding homelessness solutions in integration with broad regional, economic and community development strategies, and to provide mechanisms for social network integration such that all citizens of the region can co-own the challenge, as well contribute to solutions.

Activation Path

The Humanity Housing app can be deployed within six (6) months:

  • Consolidation of Partner/Host team
  • Clarification of region-specific requirements
  • Identification of development partner
  • Prototype implementation and testing
  • Theming and construction
  • Alpha-level app deployment


Portland Hotel Society – the first of a team of street-level organizations who will collectively champion this project.

About Urban Opus

Urban Opus is Canada’s first ‘smart city’ industry cluster. The new consortium serves as trusted broker for innovative projects and organizations seeking to employ data to enhance the urban experience.  In great cities of the world, the consummate wellbeing of people and communities is being inspired by data.  Join us to make that happen!

Contact:  David Vogt, Executive Director, Urban Opus –