Ample Labs, a non-profit using technology to empower the homeless community, has teamed up with artificial intelligence company Ada to create an AI chatbot that will provide homeless people with 24-hour access to support.

The chatbot, named Chalmers, is able to provide real-time information regarding free meals, clothing banks, shelters, drop-in facilities and more. 

A six month testing period has already provided help to more than 700 of those in need, connecting them with 4,000 free meals and 800 shelter opportunities.

While the chatbot will only be able to provide support to those that have access to a mobile or desktop device, recent research shows that 94% of homeless individuals possess a mobile phone. Ample Labs’ own research found similar results.

The tool will initially only be available in Toronto, Canada. However, Ample Labs has said that it wants to provide it tools to those who need it globally.

The tool was developed in-house by Ample Labs, with Ada providing support to help ensure that the chatbot is accurate and reliable. As well as Ada’s support, Ample Labs also conducted hundreds of interviews, workshops and consultations with homeless individuals and at-risk youths, as well as the organisations, services and staff that work with them.

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“We’ve spent a lot of time in shelters working with both front-line staff and clients to ensure Chalmers addressed their needs — and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” CG Chen, founder of Ample Labs, said.

The project was made possible by a campaign launched on crowdfunding website Indiegogo, which saw more than £7,200 raised by 137 backers. The non-profit has confirmed that 50% of the funds raised will go to at-risk youths who are helping to manage the service.

Relief for Toronto’s homeless community

According to Toronto-based charity Fred Victor, there are more than 9,000 people without residence sleeping outdoors, in shelters, or in health or correction facilities each night in the city. Some 36% of them have been homeless for more than a year, and with shelters reaching an average occupancy of 98%, some are calling for immediate action to solve the crisis.

“We are experiencing a housing crisis and homelessness crisis that requires immediate emergency attention,” Canadian politician  Kristyn Wong-Tam said earlier this year as a number of advocates called for Toronto to declare a state of emergency.

While the city has yet to find a viable solution, Chalmers is already providing some much-needed relief to Toronto’s homeless citizens, as shown by the community’s interest in the tool, according to Ada.

“The rapid adoption of Chalmers to date demonstrates the immediate need for its service,” Mike Murchison, CEO of Ada, said.