SXSW Accelerator Startup Samaritan Helps You Walk With, Not By, The Homeless
You’re in New York City for a meeting. You’ve got your dressed to the nines with a fancy watch and a pair of Ferragamo shoes on your feet. As you step out onto 33rd street there’s a homeless person, asking you for a donation. Cup in hand and sign around their neck, you briskly walk by and try desperately not to make eye contact. But, you do. Now the homeless person is looking you in the eye and you’re go to is ready, “sorry I don’t carry any cash”.
This happens thousands of times a day, every day in cities across the country. Perhaps you mean well and you really wish you could help. Perhaps you really don’t carry cash. Perhaps you don’t have the time to stop and have a chat with the homeless person, after all you live a busy life. Perhaps you’re worried that the money will be used for drugs or booze.
A Seattle startup called Samaritan has actually solved all of these problems for us. Samaritan is using Bluetooth beacon technology with frictionless payment technology to make learning about and helping the nation’s homeless, easier.
With Samaritan, homeless people are given a Bluetooth beacon to wear around their necks. When they pick up the beacon from a counselor or social worker they help that social worker write their story for the Samaritan app. The stories are about the persons life, what they used to do, what they’re trying to do and what their goals are. That homeless person borrows the beacon, free of charge, for 30 days. If they want it longer they can have it, but they have to come in for a counseling appointment.
For everyone else, they simply download the Samaritan app and as they pass by homeless people in the program their stories will pop up in the app. At that time the app user can decide if they want to donate money to that homeless person. If they do, a simple mobile transaction makes that happen. You’ve directly helped a homeless person and you didn’t even need cash. If this isn’t amazing enough, it actually gets better.
Samaritan works with local resources like Goodwill, food pantries and stores with low cost pricing, carrying the things homeless people need. The money donated can only be spent at these supporting businesses so you don’t need to worry that the person you just helped is going on a bender at the end of the day. If the homeless person needs to buy something with the money, outside of the partner store network, they can discuss it with their counselor and the counselor can give them cash.
We got a chance to talk with Jonathan who helped create Samaritan, at the SXSW Accelerator Demo Day. Check out the video above.
Currently Samaritan is running a pilot in Seattle with 500 homeless people wearing the beacons. To date, ten of those homeless people have been able to get off the streets and into housing, having saved their Samaritan money for rent and deposits.
Find out more info online, at samaritan.city