For most cities across the world the homeless situation isn’t working for anyone. But what if there were a way for citizens to easily use their phones to contribute money towards scientifically proven methods for reducing homelessness?

The Situation

The Homeless

There’s a point where someone becomes so poor, it becomes expensive. When you don’t even have a place to store food, you have to buy expensive small amounts that you can carry on your person. And homeless people have no base from which to escape this trap. Already often mentally ill, they’re pushed into extremes that would make the best of us seem crazy and unemployable. More importantly, the day-to-day services required to deal with these people are significantly more expensive over the long term than many proven solutions.

The Residents

Although the underlying root causes are complicated, the brutal truth is upwards of 70% percent of the homeless spend money made begging on vices like alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. That means when people give their 50 cents to homeless people, it often perpetuates a vicious circle of poverty and vice. During an evening in downtowns, it’s common to be approached by large numbers of homeless people. If you live in the area and see the same person for years, it’s natural to wonder why they aren’t doing something better, and with the proper support, they could.

The Hope

Research shows longer-term solutions like six months of housing and support offer a much greater chance for people to get back on their feet than any other means. Though doubling the odds is amazing, what’s the downside? These “Housing First” programs are expensive and don’t convince all cynics.

But what if we could reduce the financial burden of this problem on the city while increasing the effectiveness of all those thousands of small 50 cent donations already being made and also engaging locals?

Introducing: Howser

Installed on your phone, this app lets you participate in a system that changes your city by allowing you to contribute money to a City-managed fund dedicated to dealing with homelessness. Able to track your location, you can electronically donate to the homeless while walking around your city.

Step 1: Download the app

Step 2: Receive a stack of uniquely coded business cards to give to people to claim meals or sign up for long-term housing funded through your donations, as well as those of others.

Step 3: Choose the amount you wish to donate from a cent or more whenever you encounter a homeless person or whenever you feel like contributing.

Step 4: Your money goes into collective fund that houses, feeds and helps the homeless get their lives back together.

City Benefit

This solution works for everyone, whether you’re conservative or liberal. Some people would like to live in a “tough love” world where homeless people aren’t publicly supported while others want the city to spend more on homeless programs and think frugality is part of the problem.

What our system does for a city is two fold:

It moves the expense from people who don’t want to pay to people who do.

The money raised reduces the tax dollars the City has to spend dealing with the issue.

Our Proposal

With a three-person team, we could build a scalable version of this application in a year. Passionate about this project, we’ve completed initial planning, and our team members include talent with experience building similar high-traffic apps but looking to create something delivering a greater public good.