Ending Veteran Homelessness

Team Members: Aneesh Agrawal, Reem Alfaiz, Jane Coffrin, and Michelle Thomas

The data say that in 2015 there were more than 47,000 homeless veterans across the United States. And while this number has decreased from the more than 78,000 homeless veterans in 2007, more needs to be done to end homelessness for our veterans. We want to tell this story because we value the service of these veterans have provided for our country and we want to continue to encourage decreasing the number of homeless veterans by asking for support from states and cities to help get these veterans out of shelters and streets by providing the support they need to find permanent housing.

Our audience is the citizens of the United States who care about our veterans and want to make an impact on their local communities. We will focus on reaching this audience through social media. Our goals are:

1. To praise City Mayors for joining the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

2. To encourage Mayors, that haven’t already, to join Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

3.To bring awareness to the number of Homeless Veterans within a viewer’s state.

In 2010 the Obama Administration released Opening Doors, the nation’s first strategic and aggressive plan to prevent and ultimately end homelessness. One of goals was to end veteran homelessness by 2015. In an effort to call officials into action, First Lady Michelle Obama issued the mayors challenge to end veteran homelessness which calls on mayors across the country to pledge to take steps towards the 2015 goal. Since 2010 the number of homeless veterans in the United States has decreased every year, but with more than 47,000 homeless veterans in 2015 there is a ways to go before veteran homelessness will end. We believe that more needs to be done to help end Veteran Homelessness. Although over 600 mayors have joined the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, we hope to continue to get more Mayors onboard to help eliminate veteran homelessness.

We used a map to show the number of Homeless Veterans per Capita in each state from 2007 to 2015. We think that this aligns with reality: veteran homelessness has been reduced since 2007, but there is still more work to be done. Our map is color coded by percentage of Homeless Veterans per Capita from the HUD Homelessness Data and Yearly State Population Estimates. It is also interactive and allows the user to scroll through time (from 2007 to 2015) as well investigate their own state via drop down menu to learn more about homeless veterans in their state. From there they are able to see the list of Mayors for the selected state that have already joined the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. If their Mayor is on the list, great! The user will be prompted to send their Mayor a pre-written thank you note for Joining the Challenge. If their Mayor is not on the list, the user will be prompted to send a pre-written letter encouraging their Mayor to pledge to end veteran homelessness.

You can check out the website here.

Our data sources were:

  1. HUD Homelessness Data → 2007-2015 Point-in-Time Estimates by State
  2. 2000-2010 Vintage State Population Estimates
  3. 2011-2014 Vintage State Population Estimates
  4. 2015 Vintage State Population Estimate

Creating More Beds for the Homeless

Team Members: Gary Burnett, Phillip Graham, Katie Marlowe

Finished Map

The data say that states that have a higher ratio of beds for the homeless to the amount of homeless people more frequently had a decrease in the number of homeless people from 2014-2015.

We want to tell this story because the homelessness epidemic is a big problem. There are 564,708 homeless people in the United States, and transitional housing is helping to lower this number.

This data would be presented at a convention about ending the homelessness epidemic, so our audience would be people attending the convention, who are most likely eager to help this issue. Our goal is to tell them that transitional housing can help be part of the solution, so that we can build support for transitional housing.

When looking at the data, we found that states with a decrease in homeless population tended to have more transitional housing. Specifically, they had a higher ratio of beds available to the number of homeless people.

There were, of course, some outliers. South Dakota had an increase in the homeless population by 17%, whereas no other state had an increase more than 10%, and they also have a high ratio of beds for the homeless. In general, the states in the North East also tended to not fit the trend. New York and New Hampshire both have a high ratio of beds, but had an increase in their homeless population.

We decided that a map would be a good representation for this data for a couple of reasons. First of all, this would be displayed at convention where a lot of people would walk by and look at it, so a map is an easy way for someone to locate their home state and see how they stack up to other states. It is also nice to see how different geographic regions compare. As stated earlier, the North East does not exactly fit the trend that most of the rest of the country follows. The South has, for the most part, seen a significant decrease in their homeless population, where the West Coast has seen a decent increase in their homeless population.

An End to Stop and Frisk

Team Members: Catherine Caruso, Mike Drachkovitch, Kendra Pierre-Louis

(Click the photo to read the article)

Boston Map Base

Stop and Frisk_Final

The data say that the Boston Police Department conducted 152,230 stop and frisk actions from 2007 to 2010. Of those, 89,219, or 61.28%, were conducted on black people. Given that according to 2010 Census data, only 24.4% of Bostonians are black, blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be the subjects of a stop and frisk than their numbers would suggest. We want to tell this story because despite the evidence that black communities are disproportionately targeted by the practice, there has been little traction in reducing it in Boston, or in the many cities where the it occurs. Lower income communities of color like those targeted in Boston lack the political power to end the practice. Consequently, our audience is white Bostonians who have more political power and can act as allies on behalf of those communities. Our goals are 1) get them to empathize with the embarrassment and the disruption of being routinely stopped and frisked without cause and 2) recognize the absurdity of the practice, to a degree that they’re willing to learn more about it and take action

Summary: The Boston Police Department (BPD) engages in the controversial practice known as “stop and frisk,” where officers stop, stop, question, and frisk people for weapons, drugs, and other contraband without probably cause. Many consider the practice a violation of the fourth amendment which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. In Boston most stop and frisks occur in low income, majority black neighborhoods, which suggests biased policing, and leads to a negative impact on those communities.

“I’m talking about feeling safe,” said Charles Franklin who has experienced stop and frisk repeatedly in a 2015 Marshall Project.  Franklin noted, “The police driving up on us, because of some hearsay, and jumping out, that don’t make us feel safe. The police smelling every drink I drink, looking in my bag every time I come out the store, that don’t make me feel safe.”

The problem is that those who directly experience stop and frisk practices are often those with the least political capital to effect change. In a 2015 Demos Report, Heather C. McGhee notes that “…a campaign system dominated by a narrow set of donors who are overwhelmingly (at least 90 percent) white diminishes the importance of communities of color to our elected officials as a whole.”

When drugs were primarily seen as an issue rooted in the ‘deviance’ of inner city communities of color, drug policies were punitive – a 2010 Economist article noted that non-violent drug offenders were punished more harshly than perpetrators of armed rape. But as drug addiction moved to white, middle class communities, there was a movement towards less punitive measures, and a relaxation of drug laws. Perhaps if middle class white communities experienced stop and frisk, citizens in those communities would help to end the invasive practice.

Posing as Black Lives Matter based social justice organization, we created a satire Onion-style article targeted at middle class, white Bostonians. We took the 2007-2010 BPD frisk data, mapped it, and flipped the map based on census income data, so that the most frisked communities were no longer lower-income black ones, but higher income white ones.

We felt that creating an inverted map was a powerful way to challenge how readers implicitly condone stop and frisk practices. By flipping familiar geographic patterns, we hope to upend our readers’ understanding of the issue and subvert their expectations.

Our goal with the article was to use comedy to challenge people’s expectations of acceptable practice while also getting them to consider two key questions:

  1. What if stop to and frisk victims were white and affluent?
  2. Why are we so concerned about one kind of crime (drugs) and not another (mass fraud)?


By: Argyro Nicolaou, Jyotiska Biswas, and Tiffany Wang

The Boston Police Department and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) commissioned a report about Boston “Stop and Frisk” incidents that was released on June 15, 2015. This report contained data about so-called FIO (Field Interrogation and Observation) incidents between 2007 and 2010, and many of the findings point out the disproportionate amount of African Americans that have been stopped on the streets. We used the Boston Police Department FIO data, focusing on the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, in order to show that despite the decrease in FIO reports between 2008 – 2013, the disproportionate targeting of young male African Americans, especially in certain areas, continuesOur audience is the residents of the Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods and anyone that frequents Blue Hill Avenue – a major road connecting all three. Our goal is to embody the experience of being stopped and frisked and also to humanize the people who make up the statistics in the BPD data.

Our campaign involves a site-specific intervention all along Blue Hill Avenue. We decided to focus on Blue Hill Avenue, where 6% of all stop and frisk incidents between 2011 and 2014 happened. Using the maps that illustrate the specific locations of FIO reports (people that have been stopped), we envisage placing big blue dots on the sidewalk, each representing a stop & frisk incident from 2011 – 2014, on the very spot that the FIO incident happened. These dots would feature some basic information for each FIO subject: race, date, age, and gender. On these dots is also a QR code that is scannable and will lead to the campaign website, where the ACLU Report along with other data will be featured. 

We created several maps using Tableau to visualize the distribution of stop and frisk incidents amongst certain races; we focused on three main races: African American, Hispanic, and White. We did not include 2015 data since the data for 2015 in the FIO data set only contained a couple of months of stop and frisk data. In the distributions we mapped for the four years, it is pretty clear to see that there a significant amount of African Americans being stopped, even though only 25% of Boston’s population in 2010 were African Americans. Furthermore, the maps show that S&F incidents have not decreased, and that they continue to be distributed in pretty much the same way.Race Distribution by Year

As seen on the maps from each of the four years, there were two streets that clearly had more stop and frisk incidents. This is what motivated our choice of Blue Hill Avenue for this campaign. Blue Hills Ave and Dorchester Ave.

Future Improvements include: (1) Normalize/control data results for crime rate, gang membership, previous offenses and other variables (2) Replicating the experience on Dorchester Avenue (3) Think about a further call to action when people get on the website.

See our slideshow here.

Opening Up Stop and Frisk

By: Maddie Kim, Julia Appel, Felipe Lozano-Landinez, and Iris Fung

The data show Stop and Frisk incidents and crimes reported in Boston in 2012 from the ACLU, reported crimes from the City of Boston Open Data Portal from 2012, and demographic data from the American Community Survey from 2007-2011. We created a scrollable op-ed piece piece similar to one you might see in the New York Times Upshot section, or on the Boston Globe’s website. (The title of our newspaper is “The Boston Times.”) 

To that end, our intended audience is informed and politically engaged readers of a major Boston newspaper. Our goal is to communicate our findings about the incidence of Stop and Frisk incidents and crime reporting, and to convince readers that timely release of data on Stop and Frisk is imperative for maintaining accountability among the Boston Police Department for fair and just policing practices. With a policing practice as controversial as this one, and as open to potential racially and demographically motivated abuse as this one has proven itself to be in other cities, clear and transparent accountability via open data release is an absolute necessity. Our call to action is to for readers to demand that Stop and Frisk data be open to the public. It is a bit more subtle than in past projects, because we felt like the medium in which we were working (a large, trusted, objective news source) would not run an op-ed piece with a very explicit call to action (like, for example, signing an ACLU petition). Rather, we tried to let the data speak for themselves via the maps and captions, and then guide the reader towards our call to action with the accompanying text. We think this is an appropriate way to tell this story because it combines the visual impact of a map with the context provided by our accompanying analysis and opinion text. This feels especially important with this dataset, because of the sensitivity demanded by policing activities, and the nuance involved with parsing, cleaning, and combining the three datasets. We felt a cohesive news story would be the best way to give the topic the context, ethical integrity, and thoughtfulness it deserves. Further, we felt that formatting our project as an opinion piece allowed us to communicate our goals and call to action to an audience that would likely be receptive to it.  

The first part of our project development process was completion of background research on Stop and Frisk; we looked at other cities that have successfully utilized open data on Stop and Frisk to make positive changes to policing practices. Next, we coded all the Stop and Frisk incidents included in the dataset by neighborhood using the BPD District ID code from each report, and mapped each incident. Then we downloaded, cleaned, and coded crime report data from the BPD according to the same scheme as the Stop and Frisk data, and plotted the two data sets onto the same map. The results were surprising: there were some discrepancies in incidences of crime and Stop and Frisk incidents. Stop and Frisk is a policy that is meant to make policing more efficient, so we expected to see correlations between crime reports and Stop and Frisk incidents. From there, we chose two neighborhoods, one with high Stop and Frisk incidents (Mattapan), and one with high crime (West Roxbury). We compared the demographics of each neighborhood — racial composition, median income, unemployment — to see if those metrics had any correlation with the discrepancies we noticed. In our article, we bookend our maps and charts with text that expresses our article’s thesis: open data on Stop and Frisk will make the Boston Police Department more accountable to the City’s citizens, and help enforce policing practices that are not racially or demographically motivated, but rather are motivated by actual crime incidence.

Stop and Frisk is a controversial policing policy: proponents view it is a proactive way to patrol the streets and decrease crime, while objectors see it as racist, and a plain violation of human and civil rights; both a cause and an effect of a corrupt and unjust criminal justice system. Regardless of your opinion on the policing practice, one thing is certain: transparent compilation of data is an absolute necessity to ensuring that the public has accurate information and can hold the Boston Police Department accountable for their actions.

Here’s another link to our article.

Marathon Map

By Judy Chang, Andrew Mikofalvy, Eric Lau, and Kenny Friedman

The Setup

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.40.23 PMEach year, people from across the country travel to Boston to run in the
marathon. By grouping runners by state, and then averaging the times of the runners per state, it is possible to compare the running ability of each state. For this project, our group has done just that.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.40.46 PMWe have three goals in mind for this project. First, and most generally, we hope the map increases excitement about the Boston marathon. Second, and more tangibly, we want to increase state pride and state camaraderie. Marathon running is a very individual sport, which can at times feel isolating and lonely. By grouping runners by state, we hope to introduce a local-area support network. We hope runners from a given state will help each other and increase a sense of community. Third, and most concretely, we want to show runners how well their state performs and provide them resources to help them increase their state’s performance. For example, a link might be provided to a local marathon to practice and meet other runners from the same state.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.50.48 PMTherefore, our audience is marathon runners who have not yet run the Boston marathon, or running enthusiasts, from all 50 states. Our Call to Action is to improve the user’s state-average by providing resources to help runners improve their time and join local runners. Our call to action leverages viewers’ aforementioned sense of state pride by encouraging them to learn more about and potentially join a local marathon. There, they will hopefully qualify and join other runners from their state in next year’s Boston marathon.

The Map

Our creative map is part of a website, available here. When a user first goes to our site, they are asked to enter their state acronym. Next, the user is presented with a map outlining the Boston marathon. There are nodes that are shown moving down the marathon. Each node represents a state, and the amount of time that state takes to complete is shown as a race between the states. Then, once the animation is complete, information about how well the user’s state did is displayed along with a link to a local marathon in which the user could participate.

Future Additions / Improvements

Of course this is a rough sketch, and there are always improvements to be had with more time. Specifically, we would want to add many more resources for local runners to meet up and help each other train. Then, we would want to augment the map with more qualitative information, such as the elapsed time as you are watching the animation. Lastly, we would like to add a second, US map, in which a user could hover over a given state. Hovering over the state would highlight the corresponding node would highlight, and vise versa. We discussed these ideas and many others, but were time limited.


We fielded data from a variety of sources, including:

  • Our map of the Boston Marathon: here
  • The statistics of the 2016 Boston Marathon: here
  • Average & Finish Times of the Boston Marathon: here
  • List of Marathons in a Given State: here

Our site