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A Facebook for giving? Site connects people in need with people who care

Courtesy of HandUp Detroit

Giving money to the homeless, especially on the street, seems to give rise to a whole range of emotions, from the joy of giving to plain suspicion at handing over money to a stranger. 

There are those who don’t want to give cash because they aren’t sure how it will be used. Others feel compelled to help a person in obvious need. Some cities have even gone so far as to ban panhandling altogether.

Now, an online giving platform called HandUp is taking a new approach. The San Francisco-based website recently launched an effort in Detroit that allows online donors to give money directly to homeless individuals and families in the metro area.

Working with local agencies such as the South Oakland Shelter and Haven, the site shares personal stories of those who will receive donations, explaining exactly how they will use the money. For some, it’s a security deposit for an apartment. Others need help paying for transportation so they can get to work.

“It’s kind of like a GoFundMe page,” said Abby Adair, coordinator of HandUp Detroit. “It has your picture, details about your story, what has led you to be a client at that agency, where you live, what you like to do, and anything about your family.… So it tells their story, and tells what their most pressing need is at that time.”

Jenny Poma is the director of program development at the South Oakland Shelter. She told us the program is effective because it helps people in specific, tangible ways.

“In the first year we’ve been able to raise over $45,000 to help over 200 individuals who have been accessing these programs and these agencies … to directly impact them,” she said. “And that I think is the power of the site and the program at large is that you make a direct impact on an individual’s life.”

Listen to our full interview with Jenny Poma and Abby Adair above.

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