header-logoPublished February 22, 2016, Written by Pat Schneider

United Way of Dane County has joined forces with Zendesk, Inc. to develop a mobile website to help homeless people locate basic services like food, shelter and medical care.

Link-Dane went live Monday at link-dane.co. The site allows users to access locations for basic services from any Internet-enabled cellphone.

Go to the website and click on the need, like “food,” and get a list of local food pantries and meal sites, their distance from where you are and whether they are open or closed. Click on an entry on the list and get its mapped location, hours and services. The site also lists area shelters, medical clinics, where to go for hygiene needs, places with free access to computers, and local community centers.

The service was modeled on a websitedeveloped at the Tenderloin Technology Lab to serve homeless and low-income people in San Francisco, said Megan Trotter, community programs manager for Zendesk. That’s where the software development company, which opened a Madison office in 2014, is based.

In partnering with United Way’s 2-1-1 Call Center, the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation did not consult with any members of Madison’s local homeless population, Trotter said. But in developing the website in San Francisco, they found that 40 percent of people using the Tenderloin lab had cellphones that were web-enabled and able to use the website.

“We intentionally did not make an app specifically for an Android or iPhone, but something useful for the phones we see people using,” Trotter said.

For example, cellphones obtained through Lifeline, a government-sponsored program that provides fee basic phones to low-income people, can use Link-Dane, she said.

Zendesk and United Way officials unveiled the new site at news conference Monday at Zendesk’s offices in downtown Madison.

Madison Ald. Maurice Cheeks represented the city at the news conference and noted that the new website was developed without the involvement of city government.

He said later that the creation of the site is a reflection of an emerging climate of collaboration. “It is a manifestation of exactly the cort of collaborative spirit that positions Madison to be an exceptional city going forward,” Cheeks said. “I hope to see more companies finding opportunities to engage nonprofits — and city government for that matter — to solve problems based on their unique skills and capacities.

“I couldn’t be more proud to be part of the city,” he said.

Link-Dane expands on the services offered by United Way’s 2-1-1 Call Center, an information and referral service that connects people to a variety of resources such as help paying bills, housing search assistance, food pantries, and community clinics.