Ignition Community Unites To Build Homeless Management Information System

Room In The Inn – 2023 Firebrand Award Winner

10 min video  /  3 minute read

Project Summary: 

Room in the Inn (RITI) was using four disparate software packages, Excel, and email to run their operations, but there were still too many gaps and the logistics were too complex for the existing solutions. Vertech offered to build an Ignition application that combined all their software packages for their existing operations and included additional logistics features. And Vertech offered to do it for free. Over 150 volunteers from around the world participated in this two-and-a-half-year project to provide RITI with the solution they need to help serve the homeless community in Nashville, TN.


Previously, Room in the Inn used Client Track, Volgistics, JotForm, and Razor’s Edge, along with multiple spreadsheets and email communication to run their operations. It is a logistical nightmare to manage 13 shelters, 111 congregations, thousands of homeless participants and thousands of volunteers. RITI knew that their existing software solutions weren’t sufficient, and they weren’t able to increase the winter shelter efforts or provide improved care for the participants.


In what Chris McLaughlin from Vertech describes as “stupidity or altruism,” he offered to build RITI one cohesive software platform that would encompass all the existing functionality and add the missing features required to scale their service for the homeless. Whether it was the offer to build a multi-million-dollar solution for free, or Chris’ “charm,” RITI trusted Vertech, Chris, and his community of engineers to make a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) despite having never made one before. Ignition wasn’t the obvious software platform for a HMIS that doesn’t have any I/O or industrial equipment, but it was the platform Vertech knew, and it came with a community of volunteers willing to help.


After two-and-a-half long years and over 150 volunteers, the new Ignition HMIS system went live and was named Discovery by RITI (just a coincidence that it is being submitted to the Discover Gallery). Now over 40 people per day use Ignition to run shelters, manage operations, provide services to the homeless, and generate KPIs for continuous improvement. They are already using it as a foundation to add additional reports, auto-task generation, and features to improve the service of the homeless. Next winter season, the system will debut to all the congregations in the winter shelter program with their own portal logins. Chris McLaughlin says, “It feels so good to see the system in operation, and I am honored to have served with so many volunteers from the Ignition community!”


Start Date: February 2020

Deploy Date: October 2022

Project Scope:

Tags: 24

Screens: 126 unique screens (dynamic screens create thousands of screens)

Clients: 40+ users every day

Alarms: 0

Devices used: No devices

Architectures used: Standard (AWS Lightsail, Dev/Prod)

Databases used: Microsoft SQL Server (AWS Lightsail, Dev/Prod)

Historical data logged: 135 database tables with ~1 million rows of data (without any time series data)

Make A Difference: The Room In The Inn project is the inspiration for Inductive Automation's Community Impact Program. If you're involved in a community project that might benefit from free lgnition licenses, you can learn more and apply here.

Project Information

Created By:   Chris McLaughlin

McLaughlin is a SCADA & MES Specialist for Vertech, with the proper balance of business strategy, process improvement and engineering knowledge to serve Vertech’s clients. He is well-versed in process automation and control, software development, data system integration, and advanced MES implementations. He also cares deeply about helping the homeless and improving the systems that lead to human development and recovery.

Project For:   Room in the Inn

Room in the Inn exists to provide programs that emphasize human development and recovery through education, self-help and work, centered in community and long term support for those who call the streets of Nashville home. We want everyone at Room in the Inn to experience belonging and to be accepted as they are at any given moment. We each need someone to pull for us, pray for us, believe in us, stay by us. We need each other. We are called to live in community.

Website: roomintheinnn.org

Posted on October 17, 2023