US – Avencia Incorporated, an award-winning, geographic analysis and software development company, has partnered with the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC) and six United Ways serving Southeastern Pennsylvania, to develop an innovative web-based application that enables the public to find and route their way to more than 12,000 organizations and service providers in the region.
For years, residents seeking heath and human service assistance in the Delaware Valley have faced a maze of options like Medicare, county assistance, Social Security, disability programs, job training, and drug counseling – with no single source for information about them. Without an easy alternative, many people would turn to 911 as a way to get answers, in some cases, overburdening county emergency call systems. Using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technologies, now, they can use Connect211.org, a user-friendly online tool for social workers and members of the public to find nearby services for health, family, education, employment, food, and shelter. Visitors to the site can easily identify service providers based on where they live and use the routing function to plan a trip between their homes and the providers they have selected. In addition to driving directions, the system also includes bus, subway and train routes on the maps.
Users can search the database for services at a range of geographic levels including county, township, zip code, neighborhood, and distance from a specific address. Results are listed by address and displayed on a map that enables users to select specific search results, zoom in and out, and pan in any direction.
Connect211.org is free and for Philadelphia residents who lack access to the internet, the Free Library of Philadelphia has provided a Connect211.org link on its computers.
“At Avencia, we make very conscious choices about the types of projects we work on. Over the years, our focus has been on projects that have both socially redeeming value and have the potential to help communities thrive and grow. Connect211.org fit both of these criteria, and making it a really interesting and compelling project for us.” – Robert Cheetham, President and CEO, Avencia.
The application uses Microsoft .Net framework, Microsoft SQL Server, ESRI’s ArcIMS, ArcSDE and ArcWeb Services and illustrates a forward-thinking use of GIS for social workers. Although Connect211.org serves social workers and individuals seeking social services, its technology is relevant for any application in which geographically-based assets need to be matched with a particular target audience. These scenarios might include historic landmarks with the tourism industry; museum collections with visitors; and landscape resources with conservation activists.