[Portland, Oregon] - A new platform to enable unhoused individuals to set housing and health goals, and then access the financial and social support needed to reach those goals, is being launched in April by Because People Matter, a human development organization in Portland through it’s Beyond The Bridge Program. The new app is called “Samaritan.” Beginning in April, those interested in helping the unhoused can download the free Samaritan app to learn the stories, goals and needs of people experiencing homelessness and then invest in their journey off the street. The pilot program is estimated to help 50 individuals over one year address critical housing, employment, and health challenges. BPM’s Beyond The Bridge Program will be the first to bring the Samaritan App to the Portland area.
The support platform designed by Samaritan, a Seattle-based public benefit corporation, will be offered as a resource to people experiencing homelessness through Because People Matter outreach and advocacy teams. Once a person joins the platform as a “Samaritan Member”, they receive a smart wallet/ID (called a beacon) where they can receive and access funds from individuals and organizations seeking to support their journey. They can also earn income on the Samaritan platform by completing goals designed with their case manager. Samaritan app users, called “Samaritan volunteers,”participate in their neighbors’ journey to stable health and housing by sharing social and financial support - funding critical needs. The app users can also use the app to write encouraging messages.
Samaritan Members choose how to redeem their donated funds together with a Because People Matter case manager based on current goals and needs. The funds can be pre-approved for use at merchant partners who provide critical resources, like food, hygiene items, clothing, phone service or medication. The beacons also serve as an electronic ID, securely storing critical documents such as insurance cards, state IDs, or work permits, the loss or theft of which can lead to significant barriers for people without a home.
During a pilot of 500 unhoused individuals in Seattle in 2016, nonprofits leveraged the Samaritan platform to accelerate life-changing outcomes for people experiencing homelessness. As a result, 56% reported improved self-sufficiency in access to quality housing, food, income, transportation, professional and social support, and emotional wellbeing. Read more on the Samaritan Seattle pilot here.
One Samaritan Member in the Seattle pilot, John, struggled with mental illness and substance use for years after serving in Vietnam. After becoming a Samaritan Member, he received $136 and several messages of encouragement over the course of 10 days. Without spending a dollar, John checked into full-time inpatient rehab for the first time, citing that everyday people investing in him overwhelmed him with a desire to invest in himself.
“Samaritan is an innovative new software platform that will allow us to serve our vulnerable populations beyond the bridge like never before. Through the Samaritan app, individuals receive a beacon that acts as a digital wallet, a database for storing personal information and provides an easy way to connect to housing and job opportunities. It allows us to connect our participants to our broader community, allowing them to share their story and create a team of supporters. This team can then easily provide encouragement, as well as tangible support to help achieve established goals”, says Lance Orton, Development Director for Because People Matter. “This pilot program will allow us to initially serve 10 participants. These individuals will have access to the necessary support needed to overcome the initial obstacles that hinder them from a truly and lasting life-changing experience! In addition, it will allow people to personally invest and participate in the lives of these individuals in a powerful and practical way.”
Samaritan volunteers can get involved by downloading the app for iOS and Android or by learning more about Because People Matter’s efforts at https://bpmpdx.org/.