Fighting Urban Poverty One Text at a Time: HandUp Empowers Homeless

Zac Witte and Rose Broome
Zac Witte and Rose Broome

Rose Broome was walking home on a cold night in San Francisco when she saw a homeless woman sleeping on the sidewalk. She felt compelled to help her, and at the same time completely incapable of doing so. Giving her a few bucks would help out; but Rose wanted to find a way to directly help the homeless in a substantive, lasting way.

In the age of on-demand everything, Rose wondered why it was so hard do something as simple as lending a hand to someone in need. Along with Zac Witte, Rose founded HandUp, a new way to help homeless people get the care, housing, and help they need via text.

Donating directly to a person in need isn’t always easy and donating through third party services can leave you asking “where did my money actually go?” HandUp aims to do two primary things: create a connection between users and donors, and to build a safe way to donate that ensures the money will be put to good use.

Instead of asking for change or for money, people in need hand out cards with their name, picture and a number. Donors can text the Twilio-powered HandUp number to contribute towards the homeless person getting shelter, food or medical procedures.

The way HandUp approaches fighting urban poverty is both earnest and practical. You don’t have to Google too far to find pictures and video of Rose Broome showing homeless men and women how HandUp works. With a new round of funding, a spot in, and new two way SMS communication between donors and users, HandUp is on a roll. We stopped by their headquarters to talk with them about how they use Twilio, and how they’re changing the face of urban poverty.

HandUp is part of the program, committed to supporting nonprofit and social good organizations using communications technologies. Learn more about how your nonprofit can utilize communications at