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Digital Billboards In Stockholm Help Homeless Find Shelter In Winter

In recent years, digital billboards, used mostly for marketing, have popped up in cities around the world. In Stockholm, however, the screens have a more noble use. As temperatures plummet in winter across Scandinavia, the kiosks in the Swedish capital, which are owned by Clear Channel, partner with the local government to provide residents with maps of the city’s homeless shelters, as well as information on volunteering and making donations.

“It started with us asking, ‘How can we use our screens, our technology, and infrastructure to do something good?'” David Klagsbrun, head of communications at Clear Channel Scandinavia, told Co. Design. “From what we gathered, most homeless people in Stockholm know where there are shelters, but during these emergencies, they don’t know where the new ones will be, and the new ones fill up quickly.”

Stockholm, which often experiences temperatures below 19oF/-7oC, works with non-profit organizations and churches to provide beds for the homeless in emergency shelters. Oftentimes, however, the homeless population does not receive the proper information on time and ends up spending the night on the streets. The digital billboards hope to inform the destitute before temperatures drop so they have a safe place to spend the night.

On cold nights, Clear Channel advertises maps of nearby emergency shelters on 53 billboards around the city. By using the billboard’s location data, the screens are able to show directions to the nearest shelter. The initiative was introduced in December and will continue until the end of January when Clear Channel will evaluate the program’s success and whether or not to expand it throughout Europe.

In Sweden, there are approximately 34,000 homeless people. Though the country prides itself on having nearly no poverty, many homeless individuals are either battling mental health issues or addictions or are immigrants who have arrived without job or housing prospects.

In Stockholm, experts estimate that there are 2,400 homeless, though advocates believe the number could be as high as 4,000. In the European Union, there are approximately 4.1 million homeless people, many of whom were hit by the financial crisis of 2007.

Other cities have taken different measures to battle homelessness. Brussels provides portable cardboard tents and Paris has turned its city hall into a shelter for homeless women.

RELATED: Homeless Man Was Reunited With His Family After Appearing In A Music Video For Homelessness

Across Europe, digital billboards have become increasingly popular in so-called smart cities. The displays in most countries provide traffic or weather updates, as well as information on Wi-Fi and levels of pollution, while in the UK and the Netherlands, they are also used to broadcast missing children alerts.

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