New app changing way locals give to homeless

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There is now a way for individual citizens to help homeless people meet their urgent needs and obtain necessities. (WPVI)

Many people hesitate before giving to the homeless. Even if they want to help, they sometimes wonder how their money will be spent. Now there's an app that can answer that question.

"It's hard because people automatically assume if you're homeless, you did something wrong," said Jaydee Smith, Center City.

He has been homeless for five years.

"They automatically assume the worst, or that you're a little bit slow," said Smith.

Now there's a way you can give to him and know your money is going to pay for items he really needs. It's all thanks to an app called StreetChange.

"If they download the app, as they walk by, it'll show my picture and my situation and explain my story to them, and they can make donations online," said Smith.

He showed us a Bluetooth Beacon, 30 homeless people registered with the app keep with them at all times.

Action News also got a look at some of the items Smith received thanks to the app.

"Backpacks mostly because you can't carry nothing lighter than a backpack. Socks because you gotta change your socks daily," said Smith.

Caseworkers at the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania register the homeless, help them get their wish lists online, and then buy the items that get funded - everything from socks to Wawa gift cards.

And the StreetChange app doesn't just help the homeless meet their short-term needs, it has the potential to help with their long-term goals as well. In order to pick up their items, they have to go to a donation center or a resource center for the homeless called A New Life.

"Where they can connect with services that we offer there," said Michael Brody, MHASP. "They can connect with housing resources, they can connect with getting entitlements."

The app is the brainchild of Andrew Siegel and Dan Treglia. Siegel is a local psychiatrist, and Treglia is a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.

"We've kind of opened up the process a little bit, and over the last week, we've been getting inquiries from providers in cities all over the country, who want to think about how they can bring StreetChange to them," said Treglia.

"It's a great sense of fulfillment," said Siegel.

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philadelphia newshomelessCenter City Philadelphia
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