Addressing Homelessness in Philadelphia

Allison Mi, SEAS & WH ’26, State College, PA

If I asked you to describe Philadelphia, maybe many words would come to mind, or maybe none at all. Maybe some positive, and maybe some negative. But for me, I would say Philadelphia holds a collection of memories—of people, of lives, of a reality that sometimes we don’t see.

This summer, I volunteered as a frontend software engineer at Founded four years ago as a startup by Penn alumni, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization helps apply for, securely store, and use government-issued identification to address homelessness in Philadelphia. My work centered on the user experience of caseworkers, who are crucial to connecting individuals with essential resources. Using a combination of Tailwind CSS and React, I updated the client page for caseworkers, building off our Figma file to create a more user-friendly interface. Through the client page, caseworkers could access the profile of their clients, with information such as name, profile picture, birth date, and phone number (if applicable), alongside their applications and documents. Additionally, I implemented the login page for clients, replacing the required username with first name, last name, and birthdate for ease of remembering, considering how design could combat the potential for levels of digital illiteracy.

What was so impactful about this internship, beyond the technical skills in website development, were the people. Weekly, we volunteered at local nonprofits in Germantown, from meal preparation to clothing drives. At Face to Face, we organized the computer lab, assisting with housing applications, creating resumes and emails, and storing identification such as birth certificates through But as I talked to our visitors, I found cycles: without a phone or email account, potential employers had no point of contact. And without identification, it hindered access to medical aid, food stamps, and housing support through PHA. So much of our lives have centered around technology. In our last week, we embarked on a summer retreat, attending an event with nonprofits in Kensington. Throughout, I’ve seen how impactful the community is, and above all, some bits of reality that sometimes we don’t see.

Through, I am incredibly grateful for my mentors, Connor Chong, and Steffen Cornwell, alongside my other interns, Jibraan Ghani, Daniel Joo, Sam Lee, and Sofia Pejcic. You were all so supportive and encouraging—I am so glad to have met you and be part of the Keep team with you. And lastly, I am thankful to Penn Career Services for their support.

So yes, if I were to describe Philadelphia, there would be many words—words shaped by the people I’ve been impacted by and met along the way. And for that, I am grateful.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here

By Career Services
Career Services