Today's Most Innovative Company: HandUp Aims To Leverage Text Messaging To Help The Homeless

A new iPhone app lets people donate directly to a homeless person while ensuring the funds are used for food and other essentials.

The new HandUp iPhone app hopes to give the homeless a leg up by letting people donate directly to a person in need by simply sending a text.

Here’s how it works: HandUp creates an online profile with a photo and basic information for a person in need. The person then receives HandUp cards they can distribute to people they know or strangers on the street. The cards explain the program and instruct people on how to donate via secure SMS. Donations can be redeemed only through HandUp’s partner organization, Project Homeless Connect, for food, medical care, gift cards to grocery stores and pharmacies, and other basic needs.

San Francisco-based web designer Rose Broome and mobile developer Zac Witte told VentureBeat they created the app in large part because their friends wanted to give money to people they saw on the street but were concerned the cash would go to the wrong purchases.

HandUp certainly isn’t the first startup with a mission to help the homeless. We’ve seen a winter coat that doubles as a sleeping bag, the controversial idea to turn homeless people into 4G hotspots, and redesigned handwritten cardboard signs asking for money. But HandUp stands out due to its simplicity, immediate results, and personal touch.

It's worth noting that HandUp could have some issues recruiting homeless people and keeping them enrolled. If HandUp isn’t well known, people who are protective of their data may question whether its a scam. That said, it’s a creative idea worth rooting for.

The program is currently only available in San Francisco, but if it takes off, we may see HandUp on our Most Innovative Companies List in 2014.

[Image: Flickr user Daniel Lobo]

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