Advancements in technology have facilitated the creation of a cashless society, and now they are enabling the homeless population to keep up with the trend

John Littlejohn reflects on a time when a significant number of individuals had disposable income to purchase copies of Street Sense, a local newspaper dedicated to covering issues pertinent to the homeless community and providing employment opportunities for unhoused individuals.

However, in the present day, he has observed a decline in the number of people carrying spare change. Even those with good intentions who wish to offer assistance often express regret as they pat their pockets.

Littlejohn, aged 62 and formerly homeless for 13 years, laments that despite spending six or seven hours on the streets, he struggles to collect more than $12 to $15.

He notes that many individuals now cite the absence of cash when declining to contribute, stating, “I don’t leave the house with cash.”

In recent years, the rise of digital and cashless transactions has posed a significant challenge for charitable organizations and advocates for the unhoused.

With fewer people carrying cash and an increasing reliance on electronic forms of payment, traditional methods of fundraising and providing assistance have become less effective.

However, technological advances are now offering new opportunities to connect with and support those most at risk in a cashless society.

For example, mobile payment platforms and digital fundraising tools have enabled organizations to reach a wider audience and collect donations more efficiently.

Additionally, the use of social media and online advocacy campaigns has allowed for greater visibility and awareness of the issues facing the unhoused population.

These developments demonstrate the potential for technology to not only exacerbate societal problems, but also to provide innovative solutions and support for those in need.

As we continue to navigate the complexities of a cashless society, it is essential for charitable groups and advocates to leverage these technological shifts in order to better serve and uplift the most vulnerable members of our communities.

The decline of cash transactions has been a significant shift in Western society over the past two decades. This trend has been driven by advancements in technology, particularly the widespread use of credit cards and the increasing popularity of cash-free payments through smartphone apps.

As a result, many aspects of everyday life, including charitable giving, have been affected by this transition away from cash transactions.

One area where the decline of cash transactions has had a noticeable impact is in street-level charitable giving. Traditionally, individuals would often give spare change or small bills to panhandlers or street musicians as a way to provide immediate assistance to those in need.

Similarly, the red Salvation Army donation kettles outside grocery stores were a familiar sight during the holiday season, and many people would drop in their loose change as a way to support the organization’s charitable work.

However, as cash transactions have declined, these traditional forms of charitable giving have become less common.

Instead, there has been a growing reliance on electronic payment methods for charitable donations.

This shift has been driven in part by the convenience and accessibility of electronic payment options, as well as concerns about the safety and security of carrying cash in public spaces.

One example of how this shift has impacted street-level charitable giving is the development of the Street Sense phone app.

This app allows people to buy a copy of the Street Sense publication electronically, with the profits going directly to the individuals who are selling the publication.

This innovative approach not only provides a convenient way for individuals to support the Street Sense organization, but it also empowers those who are experiencing homelessness or poverty to earn income through digital transactions.

In the case of Street Sense vendor Littlejohn, the app has had a tangible impact on his life. Thanks to the income he has earned from selling the Street Sense publication through the app, as well as other side gigs, he has been able to secure his own apartment.

This success story demonstrates the potential for electronic payment methods to positively impact the lives of individuals who are experiencing homelessness or financial hardship.

While the shift away from cash transactions has brought about significant changes in street-level charitable giving, it has also raised important questions about the future of charitable donations.

As electronic payment methods continue to become more prevalent, it will be crucial for charitable organizations and individuals alike to adapt to these changes and find new ways to facilitate charitable giving in a cash-free society.

In conclusion, the decline of cash transactions has had a noticeable impact on street-level charitable giving.

As electronic payment methods have become more prevalent, traditional forms of charitable donations, such as spare change or cash dropped into donation kettles, have become less common.

However, innovative approaches, such as the Street Sense phone app, have demonstrated the potential for electronic payment methods to empower individuals in need and support charitable organizations.

As society continues to move towards a cash-free future, it will be important for charitable organizations and individuals to adapt to these changes and find new ways to facilitate charitable giving in a digital age.

In the evolving landscape of modern commerce, the shift towards a cashless society has presented significant challenges for individuals who rely on charitable donations, particularly the unhoused.

Sylvester Harris, a 54-year-old Washington native who panhandles near Capital One Arena, laments the dwindling presence of cash as more people opt for electronic payments via cards or mobile phones.

This trend has left many without the means to receive monetary assistance, as electronic payment platforms often necessitate access to credit cards, bank accounts, identification documents, or fixed mailing addresses—resources that are often out of reach for those experiencing homelessness.

Charitable organizations, such as the Salvation Army, have endeavored to adapt to this changing landscape by implementing innovative solutions, such as enabling contactless donations through mobile devices.

Michelle Wolfe, the director of development for the Salvation Army in Washington, notes that this approach has yielded an uptick in contributions, with the minimum cashless donation now set at $5.

Similarly, Street Sense, a publication sold by vendors experiencing homelessness, has had to adjust to consumer preferences by accommodating cashless transactions.

Brian Camore, the executive director of Street Sense, recalls the need to respond to vendors’ reports of potential customers expressing interest in purchasing the publication but lacking cash on hand.

These developments underscore the necessity for charitable organizations and individuals to adapt to the increasing prevalence of cashless transactions, ensuring that those in need can continue to receive vital support in an ever-changing financial landscape.

In response to declining sales, the imperative to adapt to changing times became increasingly evident. The realization that the business landscape was evolving prompted a proactive approach to innovation.

This led to the discovery of an affiliate paper in Vancouver, which had successfully developed a cashless payment app and subsequently licensed the technology.

The implementation of this app allowed vendors to conveniently redeem their profits at Street Sense offices.

Thomas Ratliff, the director of vendor employment at Street Sense, directly oversees the management of approximately 100 sellers. He emphasized the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly impacted the team’s operations.

he pandemic not only instilled fear in individuals, dissuading them from using cash due to concerns about potential infection transmission through physical currency exchanges, but also resulted in a permanent reduction in the number of people working in downtown offices.

This reduction in foot traffic severed Street Sense’s primary customer base, as commuters, historically the most reliable patrons, were now notably absent, in stark contrast to the consistent influx of tourists.

Jon Kumar, the founder of the Samaritan app, emphasized the importance of understanding even a small portion of someone’s story before walking by them. He believes that knowing a person’s story personalizes their needs and goals, making it harder to ignore them.

Kumar licenses his app technology to charities, allowing recipients to redeem donations by meeting with a case manager, who can provide additional services such as counseling or drug rehab.

Recipients can also receive bonuses for reaching certain benchmarks, such as submitting a job application or reaching out to family members.

Kumar acknowledges that street donations alone cannot solve the housing and employment issues faced by those in need, but he believes that his platform can help individuals in their pursuit of recovery and stability.

Despite the efforts to bridge the technology gap, there have been challenges and setbacks. The Salvation Army’s initial attempt at using a QR code system was deemed ineffective, and Kumar’s experiment with Bluetooth beacon devices for unhoused individuals ultimately failed.

Additionally, not everyone is suited for the job of selling papers or participating in the program, as some individuals may be disabled, frail, or have mental and emotional issues that require more intensive support.

Kumar recognizes that some individuals may not be a good fit for his intervention and may require more permanent mental health support. Ultimately, many people in need are constantly being left behind due to the complex nature of their challenges.