Homelessness Solutions: Connecting Givers in our Communities with the Homeless (Part 1 – the Idea)

14 06 2009


I was extremely impressed by a website called  Modest Needs which started in March 2002 and has grown to help over 27,000 people struggling to make ends meet and has given away more than $1 million dollars. The concept of the website is to provide a helping hand for hardworking people who encounter a small, unexpected expense that threatens their financial stability. These small needs can range from small amounts such as $40 to a maximum of $1000 and the types of people it helps can include a single mother who has to choose between rent or her child’s dentist appointment, or a college student who has to choose between books for class and the power bill which pays for the light to read by, or a senior person whose car breaks down unexpectedly and needs some extra cash in order to remain mobile. Here’s how it works: Through Modest Needs people can go to the website, and choose who they want their money to go to, and Modest Needs will pay the bill directly. Modest Needs provides the website and screens all of the grant applicants. If you’d like to donate, you go to the website and get a certain amount of points for your donation, and then you can use your points to vote for who you want to get the grant. Once a person has enough votes for their request, Modest Needs fulfills the grant.

This idea is effective and efficient because it provides a low cost website as the medium for givers to connect with those in need. It’s novel because rather than just asking people to donate to a charity, the donors have the power to choose who gets the grant, perhaps attracting more donors by providing the added benefit of getting to choose who gets the support.The video below shows the website featured in the news.

Other websites that have provided the connection between givers and those in need include:

  • kiva– a micro-lending website that connects donors to entrepreneurs in impoverished communities all over the world. Throughout the loan, you can keep in contact with your sponsored entrepreneur with journals.
  • education generation– a website that allows you to browse student profiles in order to help fund education for students in need.
  • Compassionlogoworldvision – these organizations allow you to sponsor children in some of the poorest countries in the world in order to provide them with food, education, and health services. You can browse their websites to select a child, and then maintain correspondence with the child through letters and updates.

Providing a connection between givers and those in need has proved to be extremely successful for many social issues throughout our world, from children in developing countries, to students in need, to people struggling to make ends meet. I would like to extend this concept to the homelessness problem by proposing a website which connects donors to the homeless people in the Tri Cities. I looked at the Modest Needs website, and there is only 1 person from British Columbia that I could choose to sponsor – these websites have yielded tremendous success around the world, and it’s time for us to bring the idea home so that our community can benefit from their advantages. I have met so many people who really want to help the homeless and simply don’t know how, or don’t feel that they can have a big impact. What if we could target the low needs homeless people in the Tri Cities and connect them with people in their local community who can help them financially? Our low needs target would be people who have recently slipped into homelessness and are not addicted or hard to house. Looking at the Tri Cities homeless population of 200, a rough estimate of the low needs homeless would be around 20 people. These are 20 people whom we can help get out of homelessness before they get into the cycle of poverty and addiction. What if we could ask members of our local community, local businesses, and other groups to donate and support these low needs homeless people, tracking their progress on the website, and giving the community the opportunity to support them financially and also leave them encouraging comments on the website? Here we would be providing people with the chance to support someone who is not half way around the world, but lives in their very own community, without a home and in need of support and love from the people around them.

I welcome your comments and thoughts on this idea.