It's a major victory: helping a homeless man get a place to live in San Francisco after 15 years on the streets. His salvation came from high school classmates who found him online. And they found him through a startup website that's acting as a kind of social-network-cum-Kickstarter for the city's neediest residents.
The site, HandUp, gives nonprofit agencies a way to put profiles of their clients online, along with those clients' needs, pictures and personal appeals. That gets around a common dilemma that even HandUp's co-founder Rose Broome encounters herself.
"I don't give money out on the street," Broome says. "And I respect if people want to give cash as well, but we think by building a system where there is this transparency, where you do know that the money is going to basic needs, that people will give more."
Currently HandUp is working with Project Homeless Connect to help the nonprofit's clients build personalized pages. That way, instead of standing on the street expecting a handout, they can hand out business cards with their information and a link to their page. Donors can also text $5 donations with their smartphones. The money is converted into points that the HandUp member can use to get their needs met. They cannot cash out the donations.
"We let them know (by mobile phone) that they have a donation, and they can go in to Project Homeless Connect to redeem their donation for food, clothes, medical care, housing, other basic needs," Broome says. "We help empower them to use these points for what they need."