SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — City leaders in San Francisco have their hands full tackling the homeless crisis, but a new non-profit is providing a way for people to donate to the needy without worrying about how the money is being spent.
The solution starts with a unique type of gift card.
Jeff Kositsky is the man tasked with taking San Francisco’s tangled web of homeless programs and creating one effective blueprint.
Since starting the job in August, he’s had to deal with tent cities springing up around the city, creating navigation centers and finding new units of permanent housing.
But he says the first step in helping the homeless was to find out who they are and what they need. He’s excited about a program from a San Francisco non-profit called HandUp.
“Everybody knows that feeling when you’re walking on the street and you see somebody on the sidewalk and asking you for help and you want to help but you don’t know how,” said HandUp CEO Rose Broome. “Many people in San Francisco ask me the question, ‘Should I give money to people or should I give food to people.'”
With HandUp, people can buy cards for $25 and give them to someone in need.
“They also came up with this great idea to create this card that individuals can go onto their website and purchase and what they can do is give these cards to a homeless individual,” said Kositsky.
“After homeless individual gets a HandUp gift card, they can go in to a drop in center,” said Broome. Right now, Project Homeless Connect and Glide receive HandUp gift cards and they can exchange it for different items and services. So groceries or a gift card to Walgreens to get medicine or clothes or to pay a phone bill online. But we try to create a lot of flexibility with HandUp, also that accountability.”
In addition to helping provide those in need with necessities, there’s a side benefit.
“It’s also great way for the city to have folks come into our resource center where we can get them into our system and to be able to provide them additional services,” explained Kositsky.
So the city gets to make contact with the person and the giver of the card can be sure their money is well spent.
And as for the person who receives the card?
“A lot of our HandUp members who can receive gift card say the money is great but knowing that people care about you and they want to help you makes an even bigger difference,” said Broome.
$25 may seem like a lot of money, but according to Broome, the higher amount ensures that people will actually go to a drop in center to redeem them.
To learn more about HandUp, you can visit their website, HandUp.org.