HandUP is a San Francisco based startup that enables donors to give directly to an individual affected by homelessness.
About two years ago, Co-Founder Rose Broome became deeply affected by the plight of the homeless in San Francisco. Unlike many of us who often overlook the homeless, HandUp, led by co-founders Rose Broome and Zach White, has set out to use crowd funding and gift cards to help those in need reach their goals, such as money for school supplies, a mattress or for baby care necessities.
How HandUp Works
The staff of HandUp built the website so that donors use the front end while case managers from organizations such as Project Homeless Connect or Bay Area Compass Family Services utilize the back end. The case managers are the interlocutors between the homeless and HandUp, and their job is to meet with the homeless individual in order to learn their story and decide if HandUp is the best option for him or her. Once HandUp is decided upon, the story is posted onto the website and at that point donors can pledge money for the cause of their choosing. The maximum amount that can be donated overall for a single cause is $500, while individual donors can pledge up to $50 each.
A donated gift card is redeemable at any of the seventeen non-profit partners of HandUp. Typically donation goals are reached in a matter of days, but can take longer depending on the complexity of the cause. HandUp places no limit on how many causes can be published on its website. Once the goal is reached, a check is sent to the case manager so that they can purchase the item or distribute the money accordingly. Meaghan Murphy, who heads the Marketing department and is a Community Lead at HandUP, accurately describes it as a “crowd funding for basic needs.” This is undoubtedly a more flexible approach for homeless individuals who need money for basic necessities.
Helping and Beyond
HandUp is rare because it’s a hybrid of a public benefit corporation like Kickstarter, but has the bottom line of being a social impact startup; so, it is no surprise that its staff is often seen volunteering in their community. One of the long-term objectives is to change people’s understanding of homelessness as a more diverse problem; anyone experiencing economic difficulties can be considered homeless. In the Bay Area homelessness is an important issue, and due to the housing crisis homelessness is more visible then ever, though the number of homeless has stayed stable. Despite the steady statistic, the five-person startup has not diminished their efforts to improve the lives of the homeless.
The creation of several “navigation centers” is one of HandUp’s notable accomplishments. These centers allow homeless individuals to come with pets or partners, a practice normally forbidden in shelters. The navigation centers are based on the new theory that housing is first before anything else. An example of the success of this theory is Salt Lake City, where between 2005-2015 homelessness decreased from nearly 1,933 to 178 following the implementation of the housing first program.
The Future of HandUp
Currently HandUp is in the midst of a wide-spread fundraising campaign, in order to expand their team and evolve their product. This will mean an increase in the number of non-profit partners in urban areas like Los Angeles, New York, and Miami, as well as launching more HandUp gift cards with new product features, so that partners can more effectively engage their donor base and grow across the country. HandUp also hopes to bridge the gap between social services and local government by creating a program with cohesive data that adheres to the needs of the homeless population. Currently, the data on homelessness is concentrated to communities; likewise the non-profits that work with them are very isolated. Thus, a cohesive program would be beneficial. Luckily, with $850,000 already raised to support this endeavor, HandUp is well on its way.
About the Author:
Kyra Assibey-Bonsu is a freelance writer based out of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Kyra is an ardent supporter of women’s rights and social entrepreneurship and has worked and volunteered with several non-profits, startups and schools around the world to promulgate these rights. She graduated from Tufts University with BA in International Relations and Spanish and she always votes when she can. Follow Kyra on Instagram