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Tech for Good: Fighting Homelessness in North Carolina

North Carolina families hit hard by the pandemic needed rental assistance fast, but existing systems couldn't handle the volume of applications. We partnered with DreamKey Partners and Housing Collaborative to make an impact where it mattered most. Learn how digital made a difference.

The Challenge

The pandemic left people facing job loss and potential homelessness overnight. As emergency rental assistance funds became available, existing systems couldn’t handle the volume of applications.

The Approach

Speed was critical, so the rental assistance program team quickly tapped Publicis Sapient to design a new solution to meet their unique needs, such as determining how money is tracked and calculating assistance for each household.

The Implementation

Thousands of applications awaited review and approval, but the program didn’t have the technical capacity to process them all. In a matter of weeks, the team built a portal where people could complete an application from anywhere on any device.

The Impact

Applications flooded in immediately after go-live. Since then, the program has awarded millions in rent relief to help avert crisis not just at a state level, but also at a household level.

Crowd in COVID-19 wearing masks
Part 1

The Challenge

COVID-19 struck, affecting the livelihood and lives of thousands of North Carolina families. A rudimentary system was stood up in weeks to provide rental assistance for those in need, but it wasn’t sophisticated enough to process the rising volume of applications, and it couldn’t provide staff with the tools they needed to effectively do their important jobs. A platform was needed to collect, track and simplify data to get funds to those in need—that’s when the rental assistance program team called Publicis Sapient.

Woman typing on a computer about to submit a form
Part 2

The Approach

Leveraging our partnership with Salesforce, Publicis Sapient built a new solution to help manage the applications for millions of dollars in rental assistance. Key players involved with the program outlined their essential needs, and Publicis Sapient put a design plan into action to deliver immediate impact. The system now allows users to track funds, determine the sources of funds granted and calculate the amount of money awarded to each household.

Mother and two daughters walking happily into their home
Part 3

The Implementation

The new system allowed workers to get millions of dollars in rental assistance to families—fast. Within weeks, the team was able to award funds to people facing eviction, having their utilities shut off or even homelessness. A seven-page digital application was streamlined and put online so that applicants can apply anytime from anywhere via the cloud, and staff can access the data they need in real time.

A house
Part 4

The Impact

With the help of the cloud-based system, the program awarded $75 million in rent relief in the last fiscal year, helping more than 11,000 families. The program helps keep the people of North Carolina from falling through the cracks and experiencing hardships that may affect the rest of their lives. Instead, they’re emerging from adversity with a more hopeful future.

Two girls alongside the video title "Never Done"


How digital opened the door to hope for one family on the brink of homelessness

We worked with Oscar-winning director, Ben Proudfoot, on a short film about hope, perseverance and the power of digital. The film illustrates the impact of our work—using one woman’s story to show how digitization is helping thousands of people from falling through the cracks in one North Carolina community.

Digital makes all the difference

At Publicis Sapient, we believe that technology can help the greater good. This is why every digital solution we develop with our clients is built for one reason: to have a positive impact on people.

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