Samaritan app: Safely helping the homeless in urban areas

In the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are at least 550,000 homeless people across America.

In California alone, there are more than 130,000 homeless.

But often people just walk by them on the streets without even stopping to help. Some may want to, but are afraid to interact or give them cash.

That’s what Jonathan Kumar saw in Seattle, after he decided to talk to a homeless man, learned about his diabetes and his need for basic decent clothes, that moment changed his life.

“And I think in that moment, you know, Jonathan, would like to believe that if people had more if they were loving people in this city, what if they had a good tool for them to help, show love, show care, with clarity that they would be able to show love without hesitation.”

That gave birth to the Samaritan App. As you walk by a homeless person with a Samaritan Bluetooth beacon, your phone gets a notification, and you can learn their story, and help directly and instantly to meet their critical and unmet needs.

The beacon holder then can use the funds at partner stores or non-profits to buy what they need to survive and hopefully one day get off the streets.

One critical component of Samaritan is that the homeless beacon holder must meet with a counselor once a month to stay in the program to follow up on their goals.

“We’re trying to connect these individuals, to those teams of counselors more consistent, you know, on a monthly basis,” said Chris Sun, a Beacon storyteller. “So with the idea that, you know, the combination of simple financial capital to overcome barriers, and relational guidance from nonprofits, who are already doing it, life-changing work, for that consistent connection to the combination of those two things to lead to life-changing outcomes is where we hope for technology.”

Since their launch two years ago, Samaritan has been able to service more than 500 homeless people in Seattle and the feedback has been highly encouraging.

“Since we started this two years ago, is that, you know, the, the act of being able to rally together loving city residents to the investing in the lives of people who are currently struggling through homelessness has enabled them to just on a very basic level already need critical needs, and make life-changing outcomes as a result of that.”

With the help of more funding coming in, samaritan’s goal is to expand to at least nine more cities in the U.S. by the end of 2020, and then they will encourage people in those cities to take a stand and help someone in need to change their life, with a simple tap on their phones.

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