A homeless person approaches. You know what they are going to ask you. You stuff your hands into your pockets as your mind starts a rolodex of excuses as to why you cannot hand over a few bucks. The pretexts, the apologies and the explanations roll out, and you stroll off, stashing the actual rationale to yourself – you’re afraid that any money you fork over will simply go to alcohol.
A new app, called CareBacks, now takes that possibility out of the equation. ABC affiliate WGNO out of Louisiana says the mobile app “allows people to donate money to people in need without the concerns over how the money will be spent.”
Developed by Susco Customized Software Solutions, the app functions by processing donations and sending them to nearby food marts, shelters and charitable organizations. The homeless recipient can then “download” the donated cash to buy necessities, rather than alcohol or cigarettes.
Call it a “supervised” donation.
Here’s how it works: Using the app, a donator can select increments of cash to give a petitioning homeless person. Cash handouts start at a minimum of $5, and the app securely debits a credit card that you set it up with. The donation is then assigned a unique, 4-digit number that the homeless person must remember. The recipient can then recover the donation at participating vendors by turning in the pin number.
The app is free. Each donation includes a small service fee to cover costs incurred.
“So you have that kind of moral hazard of: you’re giving a person money, but you actually could make their lives worse,” said Neel Sus, CEO of the tech company Susco Solutions. Sus demonstrated the app, sending off a $10 donation. “And then the person can buy up to $10 worth of stuff, as long as it’s not booze or cigarettes, and go on their way.”
Carebacks website, where the app is available for download on both Apple and Android devices, says the app “allows you to confidently give to a person in need through an easy-to-use mobile app. Carebacks acts as virtual giftcards to any of our vendor locations and cannot be used to purchase alcohol or tobacco products. All they need to do is go to any participating vendor and tell them the amount, date, and PIN for the ‘Careback’ they were given and the vendor will confirm it and allow the recipient to buy anything but alcohol/tobacco products.”
New Orleans based, the app is in its infant stages, and currently partners with such locations as Winn Dixie, Breaux Mart, Community Food Center, Magnolia Discount, Brown Derby, Quicky’s Discount and local Salvation Army locations. Sus said he’s looking to expand the app to other states.
While the notion is sound, what are your thoughts on how this app will actually function? Is there a strong likelihood that a homeless person will understand the steps needed to redeem their donation? Would you be hesitant to pull out your Smartphone and walk a destitute person through the process? Sound off below.