Anyone who walks around Seattle knows that the city has a homeless problem. In the downtown core, it’s hard not to encounter someone who is sleeping in a shop doorway or street corner. Passers-by may want to do something to help, but might either be hesitant to hand out cash or not have any on them.
This is where the app Samaritan comes in. The Seattle Times reports that the app works with a Bluetooth beacon that a homeless person wears around their neck, and notifies your phone when you pass by someone wearing the Samaritan beacon.
Beacons are handed out on the streets and at non-profits to homeless people who want to participate (not all of them do). Samaritan staffers help write up that person’s story in the app. If you pass by them on the street, you can read their story and, if you choose to give, can do so through Apple Pay, PayPal or a credit card. Monies donated can be redeemed by the recipients at participating local cafes, restaurants and stores (but not for alcohol). In order to collect the money, however, participants must check in every 30 days with a participating homeless non-profit.
According to the Times, Samaritan launched in 2016, has 7,000 downloads in Seattle, and channels $2,500 worth of donations a month. The company behind Samaritan is for-profit, charging 7.5 percent fee on top of the donation, and has funding from angel investors as well as a grant from Paul Allen’s Vulcan.
It can get a little depressing sometimes, when you read about (and report on) yet-another startup raising millions of dollars to focuses on catering lunches and snacks for corporations. So it’s heartwarming to hear of technology being put to good use.
Samaritan is another startup in the same vein as Action Hunger, which uses vending machines to provide food and other sundries for homeless people in England. And All_ebt, which uses Facebook Messenger and virtual Visa cards to help people on food stamps shop for groceries online.
While Samaritan only works in Seattle right now, the company has plans to expand to New York City and Austin, TX.