Philly-born database enhanced for LGBT asylum-seekers

Philly-born database enhanced for LGBT asylum-seekers

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An online resource catalogue for LGBT asylum-seekers last month launched an update, with improvements for users in the Philadelphia and Seattle areas.

With AsylumConnect’s Catalog v3.0, people coming from 73 countries where it is illegal to be LGBT can utilize new online features to locate resources for assistance.

The nonprofit startup collaborated with the University of Pennsylvania’s Hack4Impact, a student organization connecting student software developers with nonprofits, to develop the updated database.

These new features, launched on Feb. 21, include:

  • The ability to select multiple cities
  • Automated resource submission and editing
  • Automated resource reporting for negative interactions
  • Printer compatibility for users with limited Internet access
  • Filters to search based on required documentation (photo ID, proof of age, proof of residence, proof of income, medical insurance, a referral)
  • Improved mobile-friendly design
  • Open-sourced code and accompanying community-contribution guidelines

“One thing that we were trying to do with the new catalog is essentially to make it much less reliant on us as a volunteer team and to open it to community contribution by anyone who is interested in helping determine the future of the AsylumConnect catalog — be those service providers or LGBTQ asylum-seekers themselves,” said AsylumConnect Director of Technology Tiff Lu.

Lu said this update will initially be tested in Philadelphia before expanding to other cities. The organization plans to conduct interviews with users to determine how the new update is helping, and to improve it later on.

AsylumConnect Co-founder and President Katie Sgarro said the next cities the organization will be focusing on are Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco. There was no timeline for this expansion as of presstime, since the organization wants to ensure the test cities work out.

When it comes to previous catalog feedback, Sgarro said she has been seeing positive reviews for the program since v1.0 launched in August 2015. However, she noted organizers plan to collect more information from users with the new update.

“There is always room for improvement which is why we are excited to now launch catalog version 3.0, and during our Philadelphia expansion, we do hope to garner more user feedback from Seattle asylum-seekers and Philadelphia asylum-seekers,” Sgarro said.

She added she is moved by the testimonials of users who share their experience as asylum-seekers and comment on “how global climates are getting even worse.”

“When I read things like that, it motivates me to make sure the catalog reaches its full potential because these people need to get out of those dangerous environments, come to the United States and see a beacon of hope,” Sgarro said. “We definitely want to give them the resources they need to successfully transition to the United States once they do arrive here.”

Sgarro’s friend, Sayid Abdullaev, cofounder of AsylumConnect and a gay asylum-seeker, noticed a gap for LGBT asylum-seekers arriving in the United States. She noted how these individuals do not know where they can seek food, shelter, social support and other elements of need.

“There was no online centralized location for them to access that information,” Sgarro said about AsylumConnect’s founding. “That’s really why we designed the AsylumConnect catalog, to fill that clear gap. Specifically today, it is very relevant given the large sociopolitical context and we think that it’s more important than ever to really stand up to this population and make sure they’re getting the advocacy but also the tools that they need in order to safely integrate into the United States.”

Visit www.asylumconnect.org for more information.


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