US Robin Hood App #TechTuesday #Giving
Part of living in cities is confronting the realities of economic inequality. Homelessness can be especially perceptible in places like New York, San Francisco, and L.A., all of which have large homeless populations as well as very wealthy ones. Seeing less fortunate people, and not being able to do much to help them beyond putting a few coins in a cup, pretty much sucks.
That’s the motivation behind WeShelter, an app that takes a brave and innovative stab at the issue of shelter for homeless people. You literally just tap on a circle, and give an explanation:
. . . and, BOOM: you’ve made a donation. But the best part is that it’s not coming fromyour pocket. Instead, money is directed from a corporate sponsor to a local nonprofit (right now, the app works only in NYC, where it benefits three local organizations: Common Ground, Goddard Riverside Community Center, and Urban Pathways).
According to the WeShelter site, the amount of money donated through one tap depends on the sponsor, but it’s around five cents.
“We were just walking around the city, like other New Yorkers, and unfortunately encountering a lot of homeless individuals,” explained Ilya Lyashevsky, one of the WeShelter founders. “All of us were having that experience of wanting to help, feeling terrible about the situation these people were in, and not really knowing how to help.”
The city’s 311 service, which allows you to call and tell them that someone — like a homeless person — needs help, was partly an inspiration for the app, explained Lyashevsky. But they realized that you can’t call 311 every single time you see a homeless person. Lyzshevsky and his friends were working in the mobile app development industry, so they decided to apply their skills to create another, better option.
Part of the hope is that people will not just use the app to send funds; they’ll be motivated to take action in other ways. For example, the app informs people of the 311 number — because not everybody is aware of it — and it also streamlines the process of connecting to the 311 homeless correspondent.
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