August 21, 2023

Black-Owned App Shelters Oklahoma Residents During Natural Disasters

Robert Washington

After experiencing a close call with a tornado in 2015, Robert Washington founded Shelter Share, a mobile app helping Oklahoma residents find nearby shelters during natural disasters.

Shelter Share

Oklahoma has had over 800 tornadoes, but Oklahoma City only has 26 shelters per 1500 residents, with no public shelters available.

Shelter Share, founded in 2022 by Robert Washington, is a mobile app that helps users locate nearby shelters during natural disasters.

Washington experienced a close call with a tornado in 2015. He was in a two-story apartment building, holding his newborn daughter when tornado sirens sounded.

“That’s a terrible feeling. I know I’m not the only one that experienced that,” Washington told KFOR News

“If you’ve ever been caught in that situation, you don’t know where to go; you have people that depend on you, you have your kids, you have your wife, you have your husband or whomever. What are we going to do?”

He decided to create a solution to ensure nobody would have to feel that fear and uncertainty about where to go during a storm.

Washington told The Black Wall Street Times he created the app to give other people – especially those from marginalized communities – the opportunity to protect their families.

He created the app with funding from Builders and Backers, who invest in ideas and people shaping a different and better digital future.

How does the app work?

Users can search for available shelters based on location, capacity, amenities, and requirements, and shelter owners can create a profile and list open shelter spaces for rent.

Washington calls people seeking shelter “shelter seekers” and those willing to open their doors “shelter sharers”.

The app allows users to make a 24-hour reservation in advance, and members receive a physical emergency toolkit, background-checked hosts for peace of mind, post-storm resources and a supportive community.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.