Blockchain Program Piloted to Help Homeless in Austin

With corporate tech giants making appearances on our news feeds every hour, it is difficult to deny that technology serves the purpose of profit most of the time.

Nevertheless, it is also impossible to ignore its greater impact when it serves the purpose of solving real social issues. For example, innovations such as 24-hour “free purchase” vending machines and portable origami tents were produced in a response to the issue of homelessness.

Today, one technological advancement that is making waves is blockchain. Blockchain is used in cryptocurrencies, and the use of cryptocurrency has become more common recently; I believe it is only bound to get bigger in the future.

However, another very real potential of blockchain is the way it can be used to solve critical human issues through its decentralized, private, and secure mechanisms. More governments around the world are also bound to engage this technology if they want to keep finding solutions to various social problems.

Surprisingly ahead of the blockchain race, the city of Austin pilots a platform that uses it to provide identity services for the homeless.

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin since 2015, explained to TechCrunch that “at a high level, [the pilot] is trying to figure out how to solve one of the challenges we have in our community related to the homeless population, which is how to keep all the information of that individual with that individual.”

If governments cannot address the issue of identity, then the cycle of poverty persists among these people who live in the margins, such as the homeless or refugess. Austin’s blockchain platform seeks to consolidate the identification details of each person and let service providers, like those in health care, safely access that information.

The use of electronic encrypted records eliminates the need for paper records to verify a person’s identity. In addition to this, blockchain can also build someone’s personal history over time by keeping a record of the services he/she had previously availed. Indeed, the program opens up a lot of possibilities for social services.

As Sly Majid, Chief Services Officer for Austin, said, “If you have your backpack stolen or if your social security card gets wet and falls apart, or if you are camping and the city cleans up the site and takes your possessions, you have to start all over from the beginning again … It really prevents you from going about and doing the sort of activities that allow you to transition out of homelessness.”

If Austin can successfully use blockchain to improve the lives of homeless people, then it only goes to show that more governments should be willing to get involved in advance technologies and new economies as a commitment to their citizens.

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Realtor Repays Man For Returning Missing Check

In the midst of tragedy and political turmoil, we tend to forget that good samaritans exist everywhere. Whether they’re fixing a busted tooth for free or sheltering dozens from a storm, the goal is always kindness. Some do-gooders have next to nothing, and expect only a simple thanks for their selfless acts. When homeless Connecticut native Elmer Alvarez returned a $10,000 check to realtor Roberta Hoskie, he anticipated just that. However, the New Haven business owner refused to let the deed simply pass, rewarding Alvarez with a scholarship, job counseling, and housing.

“What I did, finding that check and returning it, I would do it all over again,” [Alvarez] said.

Hoskie admitted she felt deeply for Alvarez, having once been homeless herself. She also arranged for him to learn English as a second language. Seemingly too good to be true, the favors came only with a simple catch.

“When you get on your feet, you go ahead and you do it for the next person and the next person and the next person and the next person,” [Hoskie] said.

It’s random acts of kindness that start chain reactions. All we need to do is keep the ball rolling.

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L.A. Parking Meter Collects Charity Donations

Charity vending machines in Nottingham and Salt Lake are indubitably the beginning of a giving revolution. Now that consumers can donate food, clothing, and even cattle with the push of a button, the trend is taking flight in various other forms. Plagued by homelessness, Los Angeles is giving back to its transients via charity meters.

All six of the meters will be located in Downtown Los Angeles, and revenue will go toward the Skid Row-based C3 program, a cooperation between the city, county, and local service providers that provides outreach to homeless residents and helps them find housing.

Sure, parking meters aren’t a particularly welcoming machine, but the principle behind these ones is. Alongside cash donations, sponsors will also generate as much as $3,500 a year.

The meters look similar to ones already up-and-running in Pasadena: virtually identical to a run-of-the-mill parking meter, but colored bright orange and set back from the street to avoid confusion about their purpose. Donations can be made using both coins and credit cards.

The machines, sporting a bright yellow smiling emoji help donors avoid panhandling. With four more yet to rise across the city, hopefully other states catch onto the meter fever.

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Portable Tents For Homeless Are Just Cardboard

For street-dwellers, a single blanket or free meal often goes a long way. What often makes the greatest impact is an occasional resting place, be it in a shelter or elsewhere. Still, this remains unlikely for most, but do-gooder Xavier Van der Stappen is revising that statistic. With the help of local factories, Van der Stappen designed portable origami tents for the homeless in Brussels.

“There are homeless people everywhere. When I saw them, it made me remember refugee camps in Africa,” said Van der Stappen, the man behind the ORIG-AMI project.

“It is a shame that in the 21st century there are still people living in streets in a very rich country like Belgium.”

The cardboard creations (ORIG-AMI), easy to dismantle, combat a ban against canvas tents and city camping. They will also provide temporary shelter to those rejected by overbooked hostels. Despite their early success, Van der Stappen continues to vie for a long-term solution to homelessness.

“I‘m not the person who is trying to solve it. I just try to find a solution for today, not for tomorrow,” he said.

For those not quite anticipating a tomorrow, ORIG-AMI makes a good contender for an interim home.

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Subway-goer Gifts Homeless Man With Winter Boots

It’s when we realize our privilege that giving back becomes instinctual. When you’re a good samaritan, kindness never ages. A child might raise funds for the local shelter or a grown woman might choose to change someone’s life. Sometimes, compassion is spontaneous. Take it from subway rider Maurice Anderson, who gifted the boots off his feet to a homeless senior suffering from frostbite.

“Maurice took the shoes off his feet in the middle of a Chicago cold snap,” [said witness Jessica Bell.]

“He didn’t draw a lot of attention to it,” she said. “It was so quiet and selfless.”

The heartwarming incident was fleeting, as Anderson noticed the man’s feet were visibly calloused and bleeding. Fortunately, Anderson appeared to be traveling, as he quickly changed into a backup pair of sneakers. Despite Bell’s retelling of the story going viral, Anderson has remained humble and without comment.

“I love that in a time and place where hate and apathy are rampant, quiet compassion appears without warning,” Bell wrote.

As much as we may not think so, kind and gentle souls are always upon us — even in the most unexpected places.

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The Chow Train Feeds Homeless Customers

In an age of pervading poverty, food titans do what they can to give back. In the absence of a refrigerator-mishap-gone-right, market chains usually distribute leftovers. But for a noble Texas couple, giving back is a full-time job. Joan Cheever and Dennis Quinn run The Chow Train, a food truck for the homeless.

“It started off as a family thing,” says Cheever, 60, a former journalist. “Then mothers of my friends’ kids started calling and saying, ‘Are you going to go out and serve people food? Can I send my kid over [to help]?’”

Since picking up in 2005, The Chow Train has served over 100,000 meals to needy customers. Recipes are spontaneous, depending on donations. While it can be worrisome, it makes for an exciting food adventure. The truck also caters to disaster sites, often with an extra serving of surprise goodies.

“Everyone who comes out on the Chow Train is a volunteer and they just feel wonderful afterwards,” [Cheever] says. “There are always going to be hungry people, and I think that we as a community need to do our part to help people.”

Paying it forward never ceases to put a smile on anyone’s face — and a satisfying lump in anyone’s stomach.

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Kid Sells Xbox To Donate Blankets To Homeless

Too often, we underestimate the giving nature of children. But kids like Jayden Perez, who ran a toy drive for Puerto Rican youths, are what give Generation Z a good rep. Continuing the streak is 9-year-old Mikah Frye, who gave up his Xbox One to purchase blankets for the homeless.

“He knew what it was like to not have a blanket at night and have to give it back,” said his grandmother, Terry Brant. “So the first thing he wanted to do is give a blanket that they could keep.”

Clearly, it was firsthand experience that encouraged Mikah to donate blankets (60 of them) to the needy. Moved by the gesture, tech giant Microsoft made a donation of their own — to Mikah. The generous preteen scored a brand new Xbox, and deservedly so.

“It’s just amazing, it’s a blessing, Mikah is a blessing to our family and we thank you very much,” said Brant.

Giving back is never about the rewards that come in return. But this one sure is swanky!

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Train Station To Shelter Homeless On Christmas

Homelessness continues to plague millions who remain under the poverty line. While the chances of a better life often remain slim, generous donors and establishments such as universities can make a difference. Opening its doors to 200 rough sleepers, the London Euston station will act as a shelter on Christmas Day.

“Many people become homeless because of relationship breakdowns so Christmas can be a particularly lonely time for some of our residents,” said Beth Norden, community and events manager at St. Mungo’s [charity].

Independently, the homelessness charity supports roughly 2,700 homeless people across the U.K. It may seem only a ripple in the water, but with over 300 ongoing projects, a single plate of food may save a life.

“This will be a fantastic fun day for our homeless friends that we will all hope could be replicated anywhere and everywhere.” Steve Naybour, of Network Rail, said.

Working over the holidays is all too much a reality. While nobody looks forward to late night shifts on Christmas, giving back could be a game-changer.

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Charity Machines Help Third World Families

Vending machines are perfect for a quick fix on the go. They’re practically everywhere, but aren’t necessarily accessible to everyone. Since Nottingham introduced free machines for homeless customers, a Salt Lake church figured it’d do the same. The LDS establishment is kicking off the holiday cheer with a machine that operators can use to donate to needy families.

“You could donate a goat that gives milk, and someone can use it to support their family. There’s not many places around here where you can donate a goat,” [LDS executive director] Elder Nielson said.

Other goodies include first aid kits, school shoes, food items, and even chickens. Four machines cater to four different charities, and will be around for the season. LDS, however, hopes to keep them running, with the help of partner groups and volunteers.

“Sometimes it’s hard to know how to give, where to give. This is simple way to donate to a charity,” Elder Nielson said. “We are hoping people see how easy it is to give a few dollars or share money with a charity in need.”

“Sharing is caring” has never been truer. Especially now.

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U.K. Introduces Vending Machine For Needy

To alleviate the extreme hardships of those beneath the poverty line, volunteer groups have been acting in any way they can. From donating toiletries to providing temporary homes, the spectrum of helping is limitless. To serve as a quick fix for the homeless, Nottingham is installing a 24-hour “free purchase” vending machine filled with goods.

Stocked with items such as fresh fruit, sanitary towels, socks, energy bars and sandwiches, the dispenser will be located outside the Broadmarsh shopping centre.

To ensure users are able to acquire their fair share of supplies, Action Hunger will hand out traceable key cards. About 100 homeless citizens can procure up to three items of any kind per day. Outreach center The Friary will be in charge of distributing the key cards.

“We will be prioritising rough sleepers,” said Friary CEO Sam Crawford. “Not everyone who visits us is a rough sleeper, some are homeless in other ways such as those in temporary accommodation, so that would be who we would prioritise.”

While offering a hand to anyone in need is Action Hunger’s ultimate goal, donations provide only 50% of machine stocks. Still, Nottingham residents are welcoming of the new arrival, which may hit U.S. cities next year. Now that’s a jackpot!

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