Calgary

Calgary company receives $2.5M in federal funding for social services app

A Calgary-based social technology company that matches social services and community supports is getting $2.5 million in federal funding towards an app.

HelpSeeker directs people to services closest to them in a variety of languages

A Calgary technology company has won a federal contract to connect vulnerable Canadians with local social agencies. (Hannah Kost/CBC)

A Calgary-based social technology company that matches social services and community supports is getting $2.5 million in federal funding towards an app.

HelpSeeker currently serves more than 200 municipalities in Western Canada and the Greater Toronto Area connecting homeless Canadians with local social agencies.

Ahmed Hussen, minister of families, children and social development, announced on Friday the program will now be expanded nationwide.

"This funding that we are announcing today will allow HelpSeeker to scale up their operations to service over 5000 municipalities from coast to coast," he said at a press conference.

"Innovative housing solutions like HelpSeeker are critical to ensure that more Canadians have access to affordable housing that meets their needs."

Alina Turner and her husband Travis launched HelpSeeker in 2018 with the goal it would be an enabler for people to find help.

"They are designed to support people choose the most relevant, closest help and most diverse languages," she said Friday at a press conference.

"Through this process we will be engaging communities, from the bottom up, to participate in a national effort to digitize our social safety net."

Turner said solving Canada's complex social issues requires new thinking and technologies.

"Having a robust network made up of over 250,000 services is an amazing asset. However, Canadians don't always know what's out there and how to access it," she said.

She said the impacts of COVID-19 on racialized communities exemplify the need to approach social issues differently.

"We could leverage digital tools to help create a better help-seeking experience that makes information painlessly accessible, transparent and ridiculously organized for those in need," she said.

Turner added that HelpSeeker will also include service providers for domestic violence, poverty, mental health and addictions, as well as early childhood development.

"We will be successful when all people living in Canada have easy access to information on the full inventory of benefits, supports programs and services that can help them meet their immediate and future needs," she said.

With files from Rick Donkers.

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