This Danish city is tracking its homeless population with GPS

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Without any context, that headline could seem incredibly scary, almost dystopian in nature. A city’s most vulnerable residents tracked for unknown purposes would serve as a pretty good plot for some Orwellian nightmare. Luckily, the Danish city Odense doesn’t want to harm but instead help. According to CityLab and The Copenhagen Post, Odense has launched a small pilot program tracking 20 volunteers to gather data on where the homeless eat, sleep, and live all by just the GPS in their pocket. Once they have a good idea where many of its destitute are gathering, the city can provide shelters, benches, and “coffee rooms” to specific sites where they’re needed most.

A Danish city is now tracking its homeless citizens via GPS. Allotting trackers to un-housed locals as part of a pilot program, Denmark’s third-largest city of Odense will now know exactly where they go, how they get there, and how long they stay. It sounds intrusive, even dystopian, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, the thinking behind the plan is actually very positive and benign. Odense is gathering the information not to find ways to exclude the homeless, but to work out how it can make the city a better place for them to live in. By tracking where and when homeless people congregate, Odense can choose the best locations for benches and services such as coffee rooms and shelters provided by the municipality. Rather than using the police to force the homeless away from public sites, the city can instead bring services to them where they already are, encouraging full use of them and avoiding pointless, dehumanizing stand-offs.

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