How to Help the Homeless Using Google Maps

Ashley Sundquist utilizes Google Maps for more than just navigation. She is transforming it into an excellent resource for her community’s homeless residents.

Sundquist is friends with a few homeless people in Santa Monica, where she resides. Connecting with this group has long been a habit she’s developed wherever she stays, whether in Los Angeles or the several East Coast locations she’s lived in. She was conversing with one of them in January 2020, a guy called Joe who often hung around in front of a nearby library. When Sundquist inquired how she might assist, he indicated that, although he was aware of options for homeless persons in the neighborhood, he was having difficulty locating them.

He needed a map.

Sundquist had the answer as a Google Maps Local Guide, someone who helps people become familiar with areas on Google Maps via contributions such as written evaluations, images, and fact-checking information. She combed through local websites and compiled a Google Maps list of Los Angeles County homeless shelters for Joe.
Sundquist’s ultimate goal was to make assistance for homeless individuals more accessible. “I could instantly understand how difficult it would be to navigate all of these websites, particularly if someone is already dealing with mental health difficulties or has restricted access to computers,” Sundquist adds.

Joe was blown away by her first map and requested her to create others. She’s since created others to assist individuals in Los Angeles County in finding free meals, free showers, mental health services, EBT-eligible eateries, and support for young people suffering homelessness. She’s also developed COVID-specific services, such as areas with free WiFi and fast food eateries that provide free meals to Santa Monica locals during the epidemic.
She claims that the information was always available. It just needed to be curated into one location.
“There’s something about having a map that’s always there, that you can never lose. You need the URL, “Sundquist elaborates.

While Sundquist is not the only individual who creates resources like this, her lists piqued the interest of Google Maps, which had not before heard of anybody exploiting its resources in this manner.

According to a Google Maps spokesman, most individuals use Google Maps lists to store locations they wish to visit or remember. On the other hand, Sundquist’s lists are more concerned with helping others than about herself. They also use her local expertise when a church serves free lunches. Sundquist’s on-the-ground knowledge is valuable since Google Maps as a corporation may not have this information.

According to the spokesman, Sundquist’s efforts may motivate additional individuals to make lists like hers.
Sundquist has received notes from individuals in three U.S. cities and 20 nations worldwide who want to do the same thing in their areas.
“They’re regular folks who aspire to achieve amazing things in little ways in their communities,” Sundquist adds. “If everyone in their city did something like this, we could assist many people.”
She has answered every letter and assisted wherever possible, such as showing someone how to create a Google Map.
“This isn’t about me or what I’m doing,” she adds. “It’s about what other people can do.”
How to Talk to People Who Are Living on the Streets
Sundquist may be reached through Instagram, her website, or LinkedIn if you need assistance creating Google Maps to link people in your community with resources.
She also encourages getting to know community homeless individuals to hear their unique narrative and better understand their needs, as she did with Joe.
“You can grasp the demands and issues before rushing to create your answer based on your assumptions,” Sundquist explains.
After that, look for local resources for persons who are homeless. Look for shelters, food banks, and other such groups on Google Maps. Then go to their websites to learn about their food plans and admission application procedure. Finally, call these establishments to inquire about their requirements for staying at their facility, if they provide transportation, and whether they have open beds.

After developing a list, follow up.

You’re not done until you’ve created a list. Maintain contact with folks you’re assisting in tracking their progress and ensuring they comprehend the information you’ve acquired on the Google Maps listings. Request ideas for future maps and input on existing lists, such as modifications and additions.
Maintain the listings and spread the news about them. Sundquist mostly depends on word of mouth, but she also shares information about the maps on her website, the Local Guides Connect network (through which Google Maps Local Guides connect), her Instagram account, and with family and friends.

Sundquist continues to create maps with Joe’s assistance, which suggests the sorts of lists she should make next and provides input on existing lists.
“He’s an unconventional, open-minded thinker who works as a consultant to me, recognizing particular difficulties that the Google Maps listings may assist address,” Sundquist adds. “He is continually distributing the maps with everyone who will listen, including housed and unhoused people in the Santa Monica area.”
During the epidemic, she also got engaged with her local Salvation Army’s monthly outdoor meals for around 150 homeless community people. She laughs and speaks with them over meals while spreading the word about her Google Maps listings.

She’s now working on a new list. Joe suggested assisting women and children by discovering pregnant women’s shelters, breast milk banks, clothes donation centers, and other critical services.
She intends to extend her efforts to other places in the future and that her efforts to spread the word about her maps will motivate people to build similar lists in their towns.

“You don’t have to know everything. This does not need a professional degree. I most certainly do not, “Sundquist states. “You are eligible by demonstrating that you care about and want to serve your community, instead of relying on others to accomplish it for you.”

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