Could this help the homeless?

I’ve been sitting on this idea for a while, 3 years may be… not quite knowing what to do with it… but it always drifts in and out of my consciousness…

I figured I’d throw it out to the Linkybrain universe to see if it would/could work. I’m not sure, but at least I can say I tried!

Here goes:

To start with my personal experience… I do give to homeless people regularly, but often find myself questioning where that 50p, £1, £2 will be going. Is it really going towards that hostel? Is it really going towards a cup of tea? I am also guilty of putting my headphones in and blanking them on occasion, when not in the right frame of mind.

Sometimes, I’m just in a rush and don’t stop. I’m not proud of not helping someone in need.

I always try and acknowledge them and say “hi, but sorry”, even if I’m sometimes lying about the quantum of change in my pocket.

In other words, I’m probably guilty of a mix of conscious and unconscious bias and judgement when in these situations. I guess I’m not alone. I don’t feel good about this, on reflection.

Why am I telling you this, well, I hope that I’m not alone in thinking I’d like to do more, but I want to do more on terms that suit either my needs or my definition of the right thing to do. Moreover, handing out change to someone on the street isn’t solving the underlying problem, it’s just maintaining the status quo.

The idea:

A new Charity…

That creates a secure wearable, perhaps a bracelet or necklace, that uses NFC technology to allow me to donate cash directly to a tokenised account in that persons name, through my smartphone. I can scan their wearable through an app that would pull up that individuals profile, and I can then choose what to donate, perhaps even where to donate i.e. direct to a hostel they may have described to you.

I’m not a technician, but I envisage a signing-up process whereby we would create a profile / account for this person including photo and any biometrics available (if even needed), which would be linked to their personal wearable. Point of sale equivalent systems could be installed at hostels / supermarkets to allow for verification of the persons identity, again if even needed (I’m thinking similar to Colu’s technology).

We don’t want that wearable in and of itself to be valuable, hence some form of tokenisation and security e.g pin, as and when tokens are redeemed by the individual.

How can it be redeemed? In the same way you’d use Apple Pay in any supermarket or sandwich shop (I presume hostels would allow this too). The restriction being that you cannot buy alcohol or cigarettes.

How do we fund this? On signing up vendors, agree that the homeless person pays full price, but, that the difference between the cost and retail price is placed in to a centralised fund to combat the root cause of homelessness. Ticks all the CSR boxes of big corporates and actually provides a unique way of donating to the fund. It may be that it acts as a pseudo bank account and could be put towards social housing.

There’s also perhaps a similar, may be better use case for Aid. We often donate to overseas charities with a lingering suspicion that there may be several haircuts before it reaches the end destination. This could be a way of giving confidence to the donor? Credit here to Yo Percale, Maxim Gelmann, Alex Sowter & Sean Condron for making this link.

There’s natural problems with this of course, and these are the ones that I can immediately think of, I’m sure there’s lots lots more! Why would you sign up, i.e. why not just keep taking hard currency? Would this help or hinder food programmes for the homeless? Someone will game the system! Will it actually make people donate more/at all? Will supermarkets play ball? How do we secure it? How do we tokenise, do we need to? How do we allocate / spend the money? Who decides? Is this Patent-able? Is anyone else doing this already, look to be in the same area, but it’s not directly analogous.

Anyway, that’s it. May be it’s silly, may be it isn’t. Very happy to set up a coffee meetup in London if there’s enough comments that suggest it may be valuable.

Find me on Linkedin here to chat…


7 Responses

  1. I have the same conflicts about this area… wanting to help but concerned it’s actually not!

    Laura Dempsey One for you – any thoughts?

  2. Hi Phil,

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    It’s a topic close to my heart, and you certainly raise some really interesting questions.

    There are no right or wrong answers, only ideas to be explored, and it would be great to have the chance to discuss this further. If you’re interested, just drop me a line on LinkedIn – I’d love to hear from you.

    Best wishes,

    1. Hey Rachel,

      Very sorry for the delay, just sent you a note on Linkedin.


    2. Thanks Rachel! Apologies for the delay, i’ve just sent a request on Linkedin.


  3. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for sharing this v thoughtful post. It’s such a compelling topic, and I salute you for opening it out in such a considered way.
    Will drop you a message on LinkedIn.

    Best, Louis

  4. Hi there, in my view it’s not actually giving hard cash to the homeless that would really work but understanding why and how they get there to then build bridges help them out of getting a new start

    Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime…