Team Tools for the Homeless: IMMERSE

This week, our team delved into the Immerse phase. We gathered info from primary and secondary sources to build an idea of who our users are, their primary struggles, and their environment. We visited Kenneth, the Outreach Director of Star of Hope, a homelessness resource center and our community partner, to learn more about the daily needs of our users and the roadblocks they face in providing services. We synthesized this primary source and our secondary research to construct our user persona.

Visiting Star of Hope:

Star of Hope provides resources to move individuals from the street to stability in permanent housing by offering services for ID recovery and storage, showers, meals, beds, and other necessary steps. However, the waitlist is approximately 600 people long and services are offered based on priority of vulnerability, which is determined by their physical and mental health. Currently, they have about 1000 clients whom they are helping to obtain housing.

The organization provides Hope Bags that contain toothbrushes, shampoo, towels, etc. and they hand out water bottles to individuals. While talking to the outreach director, we identified the issue of water accessibility for homeless individuals; although they distribute about 2000 water bottles per month, there’s no way for homeless people to refill bottles. This water is not only used for drinking, but also showering, cleaning, brushing teeth, and other hygiene needs. Particularly, in the summer when it’s extremely hot, this lack of water is a significant problem.

In terms of identification, we learned that Star of Hope is able to help individuals obtain some form of temporary identification within 24 hours, which can be used at the DPS office. This process of obtaining identification can be very tedious for those not born in the United States and this serves as another significant barrier for homeless people. Typically, Star of Hope will help individuals get hard copies of identification, put it into storage, and then give the individual a paper, laminated copy.

Because Kenneth identified the water issue as an unmet need, we intend to tackle the problem of water inaccessibility and hygiene this semester.

Key Insights from Secondary Research:

We have looked through several articles on how access to water has affected the homeless. We found:

Water becomes very important during the summer with the increased heat

  • People are more likely to ask for water than even money
  • With summer temperatures hitting the 100s consistently and high humidity, there is a severe risk of dehydration

There are numerous small-scale, short-term efforts, but few long-term systemic efforts

  • There have been campaigns from boy scouts handing out water bottles, to gofundme campaigns for donating to the homeless but the funds and supplies aren’t consistent
  • Cities in other states have built portable water refilling stations around homeless camps, but expect the camps to be evicted in the long term

The areas the homeless live in and the community would also benefit from access to water

  • Homeless camps struggle with isolating human waste from the living space, allowing for the spread of diseases like Hepatitis A
  • Water could allow for proper clean up of these areas
  • The homeless find hope in the words of encouragement (Hope, Love, Peace, Dream) found on bottles distributed by I am Waters

Sample User Persona:

Name: Adedayo


  • Nigerian, male,, 35 years old
  • Lives in a tent encampment that is aided by Star of Hope
  • Grew up in Nigeria and moved to the United States (specifically Texas)

Adedayo grew up in Nigeria but moved to the United States with the hope of finding a better career market. Upon moving to the United States, he found himself severely limited by his English. He searches daily for a place to stay, meals, and showers most commonly at the Beacon. Furthermore, Adedayo lost his ID (there is rampant stealing that occurs at the encampment) and has yet to replace it. From Star of Hope, he receives Kenneth’s hygiene bags. While he is excited to use the washcloth inside, he drank all of his water bottles, so he cannot. He struggles to ask his neighbors for help given his limited English.

Next Steps:

This week, our team will join Kenneth on a few of his delivery runs. We hope to help pass out hygiene bags, so we are able to observe and chat with individuals who are affected by Star of Hope. By talking to users, we hope to confirm the need for a more consistent water source. Additionally, we want to understand some of their pain points with their current water supply. Our goal when approaching reframe is to narrow our problem space and user enough to scope an impactful design.


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