Tech volunteer opens doors

By May 25, 2019 September 26th, 2019 News

In this fast-paced world of technology, it’s easy to forget that humans are the masterminds behind it all. But Matt Hurd, the executive director of Open Doors, is reminded of this every day.

The Atlanta nonprofit has helped to house over 6,000 formerly homeless people since it was formed by a group of real estate professionals in 2012. They do this by connecting Open Doors’ service provider partners, such as MUST Ministries and the Department of Veteran Affairs, with affordable rental communities.

“We have 200 apartment communities that we link our nonprofit partners to,” said Hurd. “We had no real solution to track vacancy. Case managers would do community-by-community searches and pay applications fees while not knowing if the rental property accepts a subsidy provided for the resident.”

The process to find housing for one family or individual would take several weeks to months. That is until 2017 when a small team of technology developers at RentPath, a digital marketplace for the apartment industry, volunteered hundreds of work hours to create a property locator application. The app helps case managers find the best home for clients within days, sometimes hours. (ApartmentGuide.com is one RentPath’s brands.)

The tech team leader Stuart Hume was recently honored as Volunteer of the Year at Open Doors.

“My entire life has been delivering software for companies,” said Hume, RentPath’s senior director of engineering. “The most fulfilling angle in this is understanding that what we do is being used to help homeless people get back on their feet.”

RentPath’s chief executive officer, Marc Lefar, is a board member for the nonprofit. The cost of the new Open Doors technology would’ve been in the millions of dollars, according to Misty Skedgell, RentPath director of communications.

“Open Doors does almost identical things that we do at RentPath,” added Hume. “We wanted to build an experience for them. Something delightful so the process of fundamental work is not a chore for them.”

Hume and his team at RentPath are now working on an updated 2.0 application for Open Doors.

“The really successful work is happening when private and public partnerships take place,” said Hurd. “Our work is made so much easier when you incorporate technology.”

This article first appeared in the AJC on May 25, 2019 by Adrianne Murchison. To see the original article, click here.