The Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless (REACH) Challenge will award a $25,000 grand prize for a mobile app for smartphones and tablets that can help the homeless, as well as caregivers and caseworkers who serve them, locate resources in their communities. In addition, the top five finalists will each receive $10,000. The contest is sponsored by the U.S., Department of Veteran Affairs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation.

According to Veterans Affairs, 636,017 people in the United States were homeless in 2011, and about 14% of homeless adults were veterans. To address problems the homeless face, the winning app will help outreach workers and volunteers track down information on resources such as health clinics, shelters, food kitchens, legal assistance and other social service resources and share it with the homeless in their communities.

To assist contestants in developing robust applications, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is making available applications and data in its Homeless Management Information System. With easy access to information on local resources, caregivers and social workers will be better able to serve the large numbers of homeless who need assistance.

Non-programmers looking to enter the contest could use the ViziApps mobile app development tool to design and test their application free. The tool’s drag-and-drop approach requires no coding, making it easy to build mobile apps that provide data access on iOS and Android devices.