STAY SAFE: John Kenney promotes charge cards which can be used by people roughing it on the streets.
STAY SAFE: John Kenney promotes charge cards which can be used by people roughing it on the streets. Tony Gough

Most people without homes have phones but lack power points

AFTER midnight on any given night, people without homes are still searching for housing.

New data compiled by Ask Izzy, a world-first app designed to connect Australia's homeless with services and charities, has revealed the search for shelter does not stop at sunset.

Instead, the most popular online request between 12am and 3am is consistently for nearby housing options, with University of Sydney research showing almost 80% of homeless people have access to a smartphone but not always to power points.

To counter this problem Ask Izzy is calling on our readers to make a $15 donation through Westpac for battery recharge cards that will provide emergency smart phone power. The new campaign coincides with the launch of Homelessness Week which begun yesterday.

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John Kenney, who has spent almost 50 years without a home, said the data reinforced a lot of the lessons he had learned since living on the street from age seven.

"People often wonder why they see people without a home sleeping during the day, it's a safety issue," he said.

"You're much more at risk of attack at night so that is when a lot of people on the street are up and about trying to organise themselves and find shelter.

"More often than not these people are fleeing domestic or family violence ... They need help straight away so the last thing they need is their phone dying in the middle of the night.

"The situation out there is getting worse, more people are coming out every day."

Ask Izzy was developed by Melbourne-based not-for-profit Infoxchange in partnership with News Corp Australia, Google and the REA Group.

On any given night, one in 200 Australians are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Infoxchange chief executive David Spriggs said the site, launched a year ago, showed the largest group of people searching for housing were women and children fleeing family violence.

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"The original objective in the first 12 months was to see 100,000 searches go through the system and 400,000 have gone through in that time period, the take-up is significant," he said.

"One user once told us Ask Izzy gives you information at your fingertips that would otherwise take 12 months to work out.

"People today can't even travel from Sydney to Melbourne without needing to plug their phone, all these people are trying to solve problems in the middle of the night."

Louise Barnett, an employee of REA group who has donated to the cause, said everyone should consider making the once-off payment to change the life of a person in need.

"Think about how cold it is out there this winter, for such a small donation you could really give someone whose struggling a big help," she said.

"There's this wealth of services out there it's just about empowering people to find them."

More than 350,000 different services can be accessed via Ask Izzy, described by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a combination of technology, innovation and love.

He said the 24/7 information service gave people in need the ability to learn in a few seconds what would have previously taken years to learn on the streets.

To donate: go to westpac.com.au/askizzy



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