IMPACT
06/17/2015 09:30 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

App Lets New Yorkers Route Corporate Funds To Help Homeless People

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 18:  A homeless woman rests while panhandling along Eighth Avenue in Manhattan on May 18, 2015 in New York
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 18: A homeless woman rests while panhandling along Eighth Avenue in Manhattan on May 18, 2015 in New York City. As many parts of once seedy New York City have been transformed into family and shopping friendly environments, 8th Avenue near the Port Authority bus station is one of the last hold-outs to old gritty Manhattan. Last week a man was shot by police after he attacked numerous people with a hammer along a stretch of the street. There is a high police presence along the street and fights and arrests for vagrancy are common. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Advocates and politicians have long questioned whether giving money to homeless people enables destructive habits or is just a kind act that deserves praise. But a new charitable app could satisfy those on either side of the debate.

After helplessly watching New York City’s homeless figures shatter records, three tech gurus came together to develop an app that would allow passersby to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people on the streets.

When a New Yorker spots a homeless person who needs help, she can promptly pull up the WeShelter app and unlock a donation from a corporate sponsor, which supports the group’s local partner nonprofits. The passerby can also go one step further and contact 311 through the app, connecting with an outreach operator to get help for that specific person, according to the organization’s website.

While the corporate donations still vary, it amounts to about 5 cents per tap at this point, City Lab reported. The money is divided equally among three homelessness organizations –- Common Ground, Goddard Riverside Community Center and Urban Pathways.

In December, the number of people in the Big Apple living without stable shelter reached an all-time high when figures topped 59,000, the New York Daily News reported.

While the city has a blueprint to end chronic homelessness by 2020 and Mayor Bill de Blasio says he’s on target to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of the year, the co-founders behind WeShelter are eager to take action now.

“The way we look at it, right now we have hundreds of thousands if not millions of people walking around the streets of cities, and because they don’t have any way of doing something, they don’t do anything,” Ilya Lyashevsky, one of the founders, told City Lab.“When people engage in a digital way, they are more likely to engage in other ways. We don’t want people to stop at tapping the button.”

Find out more about WeShelter and how you can get involved.

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