AWS Public Sector Blog

Unhoused individuals gain shelter, prove their identity using AWS-powered solution Kiip

Noah Harlan stands alongside three Kiip employees at an outdoor event where they are informing others about their solution

Noah Harlan, left, and Kiip colleagues at a Homeless Connect Day event in Los Angeles.

Access to key documentation is both a struggle and a necessity for vulnerable and at-risk communities. For the unhoused, being ‘document ready’ is essential to avoid delays or denial of access to benefits and services they need. For one individual in Los Angeles recently, it meant the difference between having a safe bed in a shelter and being in police custody.

The issue of document access and related administrative burdens is so ubiquitous that public health researchers have published papers about the detrimental impact a lack of identification has on those experiencing homelessness. Social Security cards, birth certificates, and proof of disability are crucial for accessing services and applying for housing. Without proper documentation, unhoused individuals face overwhelming barriers to stability and opportunity. But new technologies and tools address these problems while helping the organizations who serve vulnerable populations. One innovative solution called Kiip, powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), takes a unique approach to this problem by empowering individuals with access and control over their own personal, vital documents.

Empowering individuals with ownership of their own data

Starting in July 2023, hundreds of staff at the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS) began using Kiip to store documents, complete forms and applications, and streamline communications with incoming customers. They aimed to provide every person coming through their doors access to their own documents no matter where they went. As one client discovered, you never know when a key document is needed at a critical moment.

This past August, police detained a resident of a HOPICS residential shelter as a suspect in a crime. Law enforcement knew the name of the suspect and this individual matched a description but did not have any identification. Unable to prove they were not the perpetrator, police prepared to take the individual into custody. About to be handcuffed, the individual remembered their Kiip account. They explained to the officers that HOPICS set them up with an account that saved all of their identifying documents when they first entered the shelter.

Opening their phone, they were able to provide copies of their ID, Social Security card, and even a fully signed copy of their intake forms with the HOPICS case manager who set them up with Kiip. With their identity verified, police released the individual.

This interaction seems minor but for someone in a vulnerable community, it is potentially life-altering. If this individual remained in custody, they could have lost their bed in the shelter, requiring a restart of their journey towards being permanently housed.

“When we created Kiip, we believed that helping people have access to their own information would not only improve the process of accessing benefits and services but would help them in a host of other needs beyond any one interaction,” said Noah Harlan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Kiip. “We built Kiip to help individuals overcome administrative burdens faced when obtaining benefits and services, but also to reduce the punishing cognitive burdens placed on at-risk and vulnerable communities. We’re thrilled that it’s already helped hundreds of individuals apply for benefits, and now learning that someone was able to help themselves in a potentially dire situation unrelated to their applications was proof that this model works for individuals and communities.”

Using technology to improve social services

HOPICS is one of five housing coordinators for Los Angeles County with a focus on South Los Angeles. With nearly 500 staff, HOPICS provides a broad range of services including shelters for individuals and families, access centers, outreach teams, and community navigation teams providing housing, behavioral health, and reentry support throughout the community. HOPICS was founded by Mike Neely 35 years ago, when he was a homeless veteran sleeping on Skid Row. Neely applied his lived experience to become a community organizer, eventually launching a pilot program with a $50,000 block grant. From that start, HOPICS has helped thousands of individuals.

“Our partnership with Kiip is changing the way people in Los Angeles engage with the homeless response system by empowering individuals with a resource to store their most vital documents securely,” said Ben Kay, Associate Director of HOPICS for Access and Triage.

Kiip is a cloud-native software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that leverages a host of AWS’s industry-leading features including serverless computing via AWS Lambda, scalable secure storage with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS), and Amazon Cognito for identity management. Kiip is a HIPAA-compliant, scalable solution that ensures every feature is available whenever and wherever needed. Kiip uses some of AWS’s latest and most sophisticated tools, including Amazon Chime for secure multi-party chat and Amazon Bedrock AI tools for private, secure large language model (LLM) document introspection and categorization.

Kiip, working with HOPICS and powered by AWS, enables unhoused individuals to securely keep, manage, and share copies of their vital documents. The solution also provides community-based organizations, agencies, and other service providers secure multi-party chat, document exchange, form filling, and legally binding e-signatures and referrals. Kiip’s core value proposition for its service provider customers is to improve the application process for their services. It uses a “problem solving” modality that pushes information, access, and control back to the individuals themselves by making needed documents accessible and shareable. This inversion of traditional portal software empowers individuals beyond the relationship with just their service provider.

Since launching in July 2023 with HOPICS, Kiip has served more than 800 clients and securely stored more than 3,500 vital documents—including more than 1,000 applications.

The broader impact

Kiip is revolutionizing how a community can approach homelessness and its associated challenges. It empowers individuals, improves the efficiency of service providers, and provides a significant contribution in the battle to end homelessness. When facing the complex issue of homelessness, solutions like Kiip provide hope and practical support to those in need. With organizations like HOPICS leading the way, there are new tools that empower a better future where homelessness is rare and temporary.

Available on AWS Marketplace

Public sector organizations need to balance extensive regulatory and compliance obligations with cost-effective procurement strategies. AWS Marketplace helps simplify and streamline procurement for public sector organizations, enabling them to spend their budgets driving their missions forward rather than on administrative overhead. Learn more about Kiip on AWS Marketplace and read more blog posts about how the cloud helps communities prevent and combat housing instability.

Are you a nonprofit that wants to learn more about how cloud computing can accelerate your mission? Do you have questions about how AWS can help your government agency provide innovative services for constituents? Reach out to the AWS Public Sector team.

Read related stories on the AWS Public Sector Blog:

Noah Harlan

Noah Harlan

Noah Harlan is the Founder and CEO of Kiip, PBC. Noah has nearly two decades of experience building and leading digital organizations. Noah was Co-Founder and Head of Product for Breadcrumb POS (sold to Groupon in 2012) and co-founded and led Two Bulls, a leading global digital product consultancy (sold to the Dept/Carlyle Group in 2022). Noah was also Director of EdgeX Foundry and the AllSeen Alliance, two open-source consortia under the Linux Foundation umbrella, the former of which he co-founded and the later of which he served as president. Noah is in his second term as an elected member of the Community Education Council for District 1 in New York City. Noah holds a Computer Science degree from Williams College and received an Emmy Award for his work with Advanced Digital Interactivity.

Jessie Metcalf

Jessie Metcalf

Jessie Metcalf leads data and digital transformation engagements for the Amazon Web Services (AWS) state and local government team. In this role, she works with leaders who want more from the data they have – leaders who are curious and determined to understand how they’re actually impacting all of us with which programs so that they can focus on what improves that experience.