Since its debut last August, BigBurgh has provided a way for vulnerable and homeless populations in Pittsburgh to access various resources throughout the city. Now the app—actually a “mobile-optimized” web app that requires no downloading to use—is poised to grow in the next year.
BigBurgh offers a free, easy-to-use way to find information on more than 170 no-cost services throughout Pittsburgh, including clinics, shelters, food pantries and more. It also serves as a valuable tool for police, teachers, and other workers for when they recognize someone in need of assistance.
While BigBurgh focuses on urban Pittsburgh, its listings will soon expand to include services in suburban areas throughout Allegheny County. There are also plans to create a Spanish-language version (the current app features a Spanish option, but it’s limited). The additions are set to roll out in 2017.
With a few clicks, BigBurgh users can find what they need quickly and anonymously. One dial labeled For You filters services based on gender identity (there’s a transgender option), age, veteran or family status. For those experiencing a crisis or emergency, there’s a list of safe places and hotlines. There’s also a Live Street Help button that connects directly wth an outreach volunteer who, if necessary, can then meet with the user.
Users can also skip the customized search and browse available services with the All Services dial.
The app started out as an idea by the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) and Maurita Bryant, a former Pittsburgh police assistant chief who understood the difficulties of finding help for those living on the street. HCEF then recruited Informing Design founder Bob Firth and his team to develop BigBurgh.
Firth says they went with a web app as opposed to a downloadable app to avoid getting money involved.
“Since the app stores lead you to believe you need a credit card, even for free apps, it’s obviously not a good idea for the homeless,” says Firth, whose Shadyside-based company specializes in what they call “city de-complexifying” apps.
Since its release, BigBurgh has generated around 11,000 site visits.
“In just a few months, it has established itself as one of the most-visited such apps in the country, far outpacing the usage in much larger cities,” says Firth.
He attributes BigBurgh’s success to various factors, including cooperation from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and outreach groups like the one at Auberle’s Downtown 412 Youth Zone center. He says they also have close ongoing relationships with 80 different agencies and sites.