HandUp just expanded its gift card program for homeless people in SF

HandUp, a startup combating homelessness, just announced the expansion of its gift card program in San Francisco. The $25 gift cards, which HandUp launched last August, enables homeless people to redeem them at Project Homeless Connect and Glide. Starting today, homeless people can also redeem the gift cards at the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, MSC South Shelter in SOMA and the United Council of Neighborhood Services in the Bayview community, in exchange for food or other goods.

The idea is that people purchase the gift cards and then pass them out to homeless people they see on the street. Since launching the gift cards, people have given out about 3,000 of them to homeless people. Of the ones given out, about 60-70 percent have been redeemed by homeless people.

“It’s a modern cool idea and it’s going to demonstrate again the city’s love and support for the people on the streets,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said today at The Hall, located in the heart of the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco.

HandUp CEO Rose Broome also announced today that people can now buy these gift cards at physical retail locations, like Equator Coffee and The Hall. HandUp has also formed partnerships with tech companies like Twitter, Zendesk, Dolby and Salesforce — all which have purchased gift cards for their employees to distribute to homeless people.

“This takes and is an invitation to join to be even more collaborative about the way we do things,” Lee went on to say about HandUp’s gift card expansion. “And also allow the corporate sector to dialogue with us about how do these services of support get to more housing, get to getting people off the streets, get to making sure our corporate community is supportive of our city’s efforts and change the dialogue that we’re not blaming each other for the kind of devastation that people have in their lives, but we say let’s go forward with the best ideas that we have.”

San Francisco has a homelessness crisis. The city has just a little over 1,200 emergency adult shelter beds for a homeless population of about 6,700, according to the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH).

Given the state of homelessness in San Francisco, city leaders see HandUp as a way to help homeless people better take care of their needs and connect them to the appropriate resources. The city sees HandUp as a great use of technology “to help solve problems and to answer questions and give people ways to both engage and to help, to be able to give resources without being concerned about how those resources may get used,” Jeff Kositsky, director of the HSH, said today.

Since launching in 2014, HandUp has raised $850,000 in funding from investors like Jason Calacanis, Marc Benioff, Eric Ries and SV Angel, and received a $500,000 expansion grant from Google.org.

“Homelessness is such a visible problem and people are looking for ways to give back,” Broome told TechCrunch ahead of the event today. “We’re excited to have the city’s support in promoting HandUp Gift Cards as a way the community can respond to homelessness.”

If you’re interested in giving to the homeless via HandUp, you can buy gift cards online here or at Equator Coffee and Teas and The Hall.