Spange, the App

I never give money to panhandlers.

Wait, it’s not because I don’t care. It’s not because I’m judging them, or because I think they will spend it on booze.

It’s because I’m not a cash person. I don’t carry it, so I can’t give it, and I certainly don’t ever have change. And I don’t have leftovers because I eat everything in my vicinity.

I want to help the impoverished. What if there was an app that connects securely with your bank account, like Venmo, and makes it easy to give spare change? The impoverished person creates a profile and posts that profile name on their cardboard sign. The person walking past can search for the name and donate discreetly.

An obvious hurdle is the fact that the homeless population are less likely to have cell phones. But they still do – even six years ago, 51 percent of homeless youth were using cell phones, and considered them as important as food {source}. I’d imagine even more are using cell phones today.

I could see some people thinking having an app for collecting change would encourage people to quit their jobs and become “bottom-feeders.” But those people would be stupid. It’s not an easy life, living in poverty.

While I think this idea is worth bringing to the table for discussion, it does scare me a little. Would technologizing yet another human transaction remove our humanity even further? Would the impoverished become easier to ignore, attached to an app – just like we ignore an email in our inbox – or conversely, would the ease of donating make us do it more? Or, would the simple presence of the app make us assume that other people are already donating to the homeless, and feel like we don’t need to? Our brains can play tricks on us.

Still, an interesting concept!

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