Wow has it been a long time! I have a new project I've been working on lately that fits this blog like a glove so let's bring it back :)
Back in 2012 I had an idea that I posted on Starbuck's idea page called Share Mug. Basically I wanted to give people gift cards that would be useful so stick the bar code on a re-usable mug and give it out that way. The idea didn't get any votes so I tried to repurpose it into something that would still work. I contacted some folks at several banks and card companies to try to devise something I called the Samaritan Card. The idea here is to have cards, as opposed to cash, to hand out to people that are asking for help. The cards could be one-use or reloadable, linked to an account that you manage online...I even toyed with some ideas of having scannable barcodes or QR codes on the cards so that other people could donate to that card with their phones. Unfortunately this died a quick death when it came time to actually execute any aspects of it because none of the card companies could figure out a way to make it work.
I can't get this desire out of my head. It would be such a useful tool in the fight against hunger, making it easier for people to be generous and removing a few of the barriers some people experience when thinking about giving that handout...not all of the barriers but it eliminates a few such as wondering if the cash will be used to purchase drugs, alcohol, or smokes. To this end, I wanted to have these cards accepted at restricted locations where such purchases would be at least minimized (this was before the laws changed, back when liquor couldn't be purchased at the grocery store or gas station). But the idea didn't go anywhere so it's apparently been percolating in my subconscious and recently returned with a vengeance .
For the past few months I've been working on putting together Homeless Hospitality Kits.
Through bulk orders at Fred Meyer I've got the cost down below $5 per kit which is typically less than I'd probably want to give someone begging on the street. Pack this all in the Ziplock baggie and you can toss them willy nilly whenever you see someone that is asking for a little help.
I am currently "in talks" with a non-profit, OSL, to see if I can create an account under their 501(c)(3) for me to fund raise into and fund the purchase of these kits from there. If it doesn't work out with OSL then I'll keep looking...I could start my own non-profit but I am of the opinion that there are too many out there and it's better for everybody if we can simplify that front a little. If it all goes as I have it worked out in my mind this will be a rare 100% charity, 0% overhead, which means all of the donations go directly to helping people.
I am also still researching, with recurring frustration, other solutions for a reloadable card, similar to my original Samaritan Card idea, to be included in the kits. If I can create enough funding for that account then I could hand out hundreds of these cards and people could have reliable money for food on at least a weekly basis (frequency and amount of reloads would be completely reliant on how much money got put in that non-profit account). Right now it looks like Subway cards are the only feasible option. For some reason none of the more generic reloadable cards offer the same flexibility, account management, and freedom to donate the cards. The positive to this is that it really does eliminate that pervasive concern that funds will be misattributed to nefarious purposes. The, in my opinion larger, negative to this is that Subway only offers delicious sandwiches. The money on the cards would not be able to be used toward health items, foods that aren't at Subway like fruits, veggies, and canned goods, or clothing items.
One item on the immediate to-do list is to compile a Feminine Hygiene Accessory Kit that can accompany the Homeless Hospitality Kit when appropriate. If you have any suggestions for items that should or should not be included in this, including brands and other ways to make it generically as useful as possible please comment on this post or email me with your ideas since I'm a little clueless there ;)
Eventually I may begin to sell these kits at cost so that I can increase the reach of the program. So far I've given a few kits to folks to hand out but until today I had not even given one out myself! I am a bit more removed than I used to be from the homeless issue since we moved to Port Orchard but I hope to head to Seattle to cycle through some of these in a somewhat regular fashion. Today my Botany class met on the grounds of the Tacoma Community College nature area and discussed a lot about collecting plants for the course and other aspects of the class. We were standing on the trail and just a few feet into the bushes was a pile of blankets and personal effects, a little homeless habitat. After the class was over I placed one of the kits into the little camp. There was nobody there but hopefully whoever is reduced to sleeping in those conditions will enjoy the surprise when they return to their spot. Who knows, that could be a student on campus with nowhere else to stay...or it could be a despicable cretin who is a bane on society...there's no way for me to know but that shouldn't stop a little generosity.
A bit of a rambly post today but it's been so long that I've got to get back into the stride here.