Homelessness in the United States is such a tremendous and multi-faceted problem that no single approach can fix it.
But that means that there can be a mix of ways to help out homeless people, from federal assistance to local non-profit programs.
Co-founder Rose Broome felt this sense of powerlessness when she would walk by any of the roughly 1,000 or so chronically homeless people in San Francisco. She wouldn’t know their story, or where they were from or how she could best help.
So she partnered with local non-profits that were already working with the city’s homeless population to catalogue their stories and needs online so that everyone could donate. It’s kind of like a Kickstarter for charity to individual people.
“We started as a side project. I didn’t have a business plan. I just thought that I’ll do this,” she said. “It is a lot more complex than I originally thought.”
Today, HandUp supports four non-profits and roughly 200 homeless people in the city, who are seeing an average of $200 per month in assistance. Some early success stories included Rodney Bell, a paraplegic dancer, who found enough support to repair his wheelchair and move into a stabilization room until he finds long-term housing.
The platform gives more transparency around who people are and what they need. The funding goes through the non-profit partner, ensuring that it is used for what it is intended for.
“We’re not trying to replace these programs,” she said. “We’re trying to be one more piece of the puzzle.”
Broome incubated the company through urban ventures program Tumml, and then secured her first big investor commitment from Jason Calacanis. Soon $850,000 added up with investments from other angels including Boris Wertz of Version One Ventures, 1776, SV Angel, Urban.us, Cyan & Scott Banister, Arjun Banker, Marc Benioff, Michael Birch, Ron Conway, Karl Jacob, Thomas McInerney, Alexis Ohanian, Leah Pearlman, Ariel Poler, Eric Ries, Kathy Salmanowitz and Scott Wainner.
The round is to expand nationally and partner with non-profits in other cities across the country. Other startups like Twilio and Stripe pitched in with free support for payments, while Pivotal gave Broome office space. Jack Dorsey also stepped in as a donor on the site.
“Now we have one year to prove that this works,” she said. “We have a ticket to the marathon.”
Here are a few more recent cases below, including flute player Jeff, whose front teeth were knocked out while he was sleeping on the street.