SOURCE: WeCount

WeCount

June 01, 2016 09:00 ET

WeCount Launches Nation's First Peer-to-Peer Giving Service to Address Survival Issues Faced by Homeless Population

Web-Based App Enables People to Donate Gently Used Items Critical to Survival to People in Need on a Hyper-Local Basis Through Community Organizations

SEATTLE, WA--(Marketwired - Jun 1, 2016) - WeCount, a Seattle-based non-profit, today announced the launch of a unique, peer-to-peer giving service designed to address the problems of survival faced by people experiencing homelessness.

Through a phone-friendly website, WeCount enables people to donate and receive new or gently used items critical to survival such as clothing, bedding and personal goods on a convenient, hyper-local basis between people in need, the broader community and social service organizations.

This is the first time that the peer-to-peer model has been effectively applied by a non-profit to facilitate personalized item donations to the homeless community. Peer-to-peer sharing has been used successfully in other business sectors, such as travel (AirBnB), transportation (Lyft, GetAround) and personal services (Zaarly, DogVacay).

"This fundamentally changes how we can address the critical issues of survival facing the homeless populations in our communities," said Jonathan Sposato, WeCount co-founder and serial technology entrepreneur. "As a community, we can improve the lives of others to make homelessness rare, brief and one time."

In 2014, Sposato partnered with Graham Pruss, a national authority on vehicle residency among the U.S. homeless population. Pruss provides years of direct outreach experience and social science research to complement Sposato's technical and business expertise.

Working in conjunction with key social services agencies, Sposato and Pruss created WeCount, which combines technology and grounded, data-driven research within communities to address, prevent and end socioeconomic inequalities.

The WeCount service is built around a Web-based application and is designed for people to offer and donate items. Those in need can access WeCount.org by providing a confirmed form of contact, such as an email or mobile phone number, and then request helpful resources within a local area of their choice. All exchanges are confidential and WeCount never shares a person's location.

"It may seem counterintuitive to perceptions about homelessness, but up to 90 percent of homeless people have smart phones or internet access through a library and Wi-Fi," Sposato said. "Often this serves as a lifeline to keep them connected with friends, relatives and the community. WeCount now extends this existing lifeline to the rest of the community that wants to help."

Donors can give items throughout their community at designated secure locations such as emergency shelters, permanent housing units, community service offices and faith-based congregations. Participants are provided with information about the services offered at these locations and are invited to volunteer at or donate to the partnered organization.

WeCount matches item requests with donation offers and provides the location of a third-party drop-off site and donation hours. This ensures the anonymity and safety of both donor and receiver. People receiving donations pick them up at the drop-off locations, which are overseen by site staff.

WeCount has partnered with numerous community organizations, including the City of Seattle's Human Services Department, Union Gospel Mission, Facing Homelessness, the YMCA, United Way of King County, Seattle University, All Home, Downtown Emergency Services Center and the Low Income Housing Institute, to provide dozens of secure pick-up and drop-off locations around Seattle.

"In our experience, human connection is a primary differentiator that can break the cycle of homelessness," Pruss said. "This is where WeCount helps. We know that donating a backpack won't end homelessness, but a backpack can serve as a catalyst for conversation, connecting people in need with local community organizations and resources to improve lives. We connect people who want to help with the network of services in their community."

Homelessness is a nationwide problem. As of January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on any given night in the United States. Homeless families, teens and military veterans make up large percentages of that population.

Homelessness in King County continues to rise. The recent 2016 One Night Count, an annual census of unsheltered people in Seattle/King County, showed a 19 percent increase from 2015 and an 84 percent increase from 2011. In 2015, the City of Seattle and King County declared states of emergency for their homeless crises and pledged more than $7 million to better assist its citizens that live on the street.

WeCount will first be available in the Seattle metro area, with plans to expand across the United States in the future.

About WeCount
WeCount is a Seattle-based non-profit using its deep technology roots to address one of the great social issues of our time: homelessness. WeCount's unique peer-to-peer giving service and website-based app enables compassionate community members to directly assist others with their personal resources and social service needs. For information, please visit WeCount.org