Oxford graduate crowdfunds to develop homeless donations app

6th November 2017

Alex McCallion, Oxford University graduate and research assistant at the Saïd Business School, is launching a crowdfunding campaign to develop a mobile phone app that will help people leave homelessness behind for good.

Called ‘Greater Change’, the app will enable the general public to make secure, cashless donations to support the homeless. When joining the platform, both the beneficiary and their caseworker will agree on practical uses for the donations – saving for a private rent deposit, paying for training, covering identification document costs – and 100% of the money given to the homeless will go towards these causes. In addition to the donations function, the app also will provide a platform for the homeless to share their stories, helping to remove the stigma associated with living on the streets.

The app seeks to tackle a major problem relating to how we give to the homeless in an increasingly cashless society (up to 55% of people in Oxford do not carry cash). It will allow users to give to organisations and charities that support the homeless, as well as to individuals.

Development of the platform will be financed through the Greater Change crowdfunding campaign, which will be hosted on Oxford University’s crowdfunding platform, OxReach. Running from 6 November for five weeks, Greater Change has two targets:

–          £22,000 minimum goal. This will allow the Greater Change app to be built and tested through a two-month trial period in Oxford.

–          £48,400 stretch goal. Development and testing for a full digital platform able to serve Oxford and other cities across the UK.

Oxford is the least affordable city to live in within the UK. The street count for rough sleepers has almost doubled over the last five years, with the highest count on record taking place in August 2017. Homelessness in Oxford has increased 50% year-on-year from 2013 to 2015. A total of 518 people were recorded sleeping rough in Oxford between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017. Of these, 325 were new to rough sleeping.

Alex McCallion, who is leading the Greater Change project, said:

“Clearly Oxford is facing a homelessness crisis, and people want to do what they can – but too often, the money given out on the streets isn’t being used to help people break the cycle of homelessness. Greater Change is all about using technology to encourage members of the public to give. It provides a really quick and easy way of giving to local support services along with the ability to see exactly how your money has helped by seeing the specific item it has helped buy. The platform also allows for giving in a way that benefits homeless people directly and with the assurance that the money will be spent on support and activities that will help them move away from homelessness for good.”

Paul Roberts, CEO of Aspire, added:

“The frustration that Aspire support workers and other support workers in the homeless pathway often have is that they can see how an individual could be supported out of homelessness, but they can’t realise that because they don’t have the funds in place to enable somebody to take that next step to help them leave homelessness behind for good.  I think it is incredibly exciting that Greater Change allows the public to know they will be helping homeless people take that positive next step when they give through the platform. The feature of being able to give quickly and easily to an umbrella group of local homeless charities through the app will also provide a vital source of funding in a time of heavy cuts.”

Greater Change is being developed with guidance and support from Aspire Oxford, an award-winning social enterprise focused on enabling homeless people and other disadvantaged groups to find long-term employment. Money donated to the crowdfund campaign, which is being run on the University of Oxford’s OxReach site, will fund the development and testing of the Greater Change app. The project is additionally supported by a number of Oxford University organisations, including Jesus College, Saïd Business School and Oxford University Innovation, and has been conceived by McCallion in active dialogue with a wide range of homelessness support charities across Oxford.

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