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Washington Students Win 2020 Congressional App Challenge With Program That Provides Resources to Those Experiencing Homelessness

SEATTLE — United States Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) announced today that Lakeside High School student Aidan Zhou and Tesla Stem High School student Aatish Parson are the winners of the 2020 Congressional App Challenge for Washington’s Seventh District. Their app, Comeback, is a program that connects those experiencing homelessness across America to resources — from food banks and restrooms to shelters, transitional housing, medical clinics and job centers — in their area. The app is already live and available for use in all 50 states.

“Our housing affordability and housing insecurity crises have become worse during this pandemic as we witness more people across our community, state and country experience homelessness each day. While I am working on solutions that respond at the scale necessary, like my Housing is a Human Right Act and the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, I’m proud to see Aidan and Aatish doing incredible work to connect those in need with resources in their community,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “Comeback is an innovative app that provides a universal tool for those experiencing homelessnessto access resources and have their questions answered. I want to congratulate them on winning this year’s Congressional App Challenge but I also want to thank them for using their coding skills and creativity to help those in need locate food banks, shelters, affordable and transitional housing, medical clinics, job centers and nonprofits.” 

To watch a video explaining the Comeback app, click here.

Aidan Zhou is a junior who attends Lakeside High School in Seattle and Aatish Parson is a junior who attends Tesla STEM High School in Redmond. They were inspired to create their app because they wanted to help those who were experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their research into health care access and America’s uninsured crisis led them to learn about the ongoing eviction crisis. They wanted to create an app that addresses the immediate needs of those who were newly experiencing homelessness.

Comeback connects those who are experiencing homelessness to resources near them. A map — which can be filtered by the type of resource — displays shelters, food pantries, affordable and transitional housing, job centers, restrooms, medical clinics and Wi-Fi locations. The app also includes various channels of communication such as forums, chat boards and hotlines where individuals can ask questions and request assistance.

Congresswoman Jayapal introduced the Housing is a Human Right Act to provide more than $300 billion for crucial housing infrastructure while reducing homelessness. The legislation would provide immediate relief to state and community organizations who are working to set up emergency shelters and other supportive services during COVID-19. She also helped to introduce the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which would cancel rent and mortgage payments during the pandemic. Additionally, she fought to secure rental assistance and eviction moratoriums in the COVID-19 relief package that passed Congress this week. 

The Congressional App Challenge launched in 2014 to encourage students nationwide to code. It is designed to engage student creativity and encourage their participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education fields.  The winner’s App is eligible to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Building.


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