In November of 2015, Jonathan Kumar stood on a street corner in Seattle and watched wincingly as a man begged for 20 minutes and not a single car opened a window for him.
“He stood there painfully, seeking diabetes medication for his feet after recently ending up on the street,” Kumar, who was working for a tech startup at the time, told Fox News. “As person after person passed by him, I eventually approached him and had a conversation. I realized that, despite the undeniable visibility of the problem, it was not being seen that affected this man. Edward was experiencing not just financial poverty, but a profound sense of relational poverty.”
It was that one encounter with Edward that spurred Kumar to take the matter into his own hands – and by September 2016 the Samaritan app was in motion and the first smart wallet – also referred to as a “beacon” – made its way into the hands of a needy individual in his community.
“Our primary outcome is unhoused individuals, improving their factors for better health and housing outcomes,” Kumar explained. “And the secondary outcome is the cultural change of helping people realize the humanity behind situations of homelessness. In Seattle, housed residents with the Samaritan app can learn the stories of beacon holders.”
Here’s how it works.
People with the app on their phone will receive a notification when in close proximity with a homeless person – referred to as a “beacon holder” – and they are then given the opportunity with a click on the profile to learn their name and background, what led them to the streets and if the user chooses, to donate money to assist.