Mobile app allows people to assist homeless without funding vices

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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WGNO) — It can be an uncomfortable situation. A stranger approaches you when you’re stopped at a red light or while you’re walking down the street. The person asks for money. You’d like to help.

But you wonder to yourself if the money will be used to buy necessities or some sort of vice.

“So you have that kind of moral hazard of, so you’re giving a person money, but you actually could make their lives worse,” said Neel Sus from his tech company Susco Solutions.

Sus says he has always had a desire to help people but he could never be certain that cash donations would be used for necessities.

So he and his crew created Carebacks, a mobile app that allows people to donate money to people in need without the concerns over how the money will be spent.

Carebacks is currently available on Android and mobile web formats with an iPhone version in the works.

Sus demonstrated the app from his office, making a $10 donation. “And then the person can buy up to $10 worth of stuff, as long as it’s not booze or cigarettes, and go on their way.”

Sus hopes people will embrace the new app and use it knowing their donations can only be used for necessities.

The recipient must remember a four-digit code to collect the donation. Sus says, since donations start at $5, recipients will probably be highly motivated to remember the number. But the code could also be written down if needed.

Carebacks also has a growing list of vendors including Winn Dixie, Breaux Mart, Community Food Center, Magnolia Discount, Brown Derby and Quicky’s Discount. Also, donations to The Salvation Army can be used to pay for overnight shelter.

Each of the vendors can also log-on to the Carebacks app through a vendor portal. They enter the appropriate four-digit code as well as the date and amount of the donation — which only the recipient will know. Then the purchases can begin.

Sus says donors can set up a secure account on the app with a credit card. He also hopes to provide pre-printed cards for people to use, allowing them to arrange donations in advance and to quickly hand the information to recipients during brief encounters like red lights.

It’s the kind of idea that Sus hopes will take off across the country. He says his crew is constantly adding new vendors which do not have to be limited to the New Orleans area.

Each donation also includes a service fee which Sus uses to cover the costs of maintaining and growing the program. He understands that other app makers may like his idea and create their own versions.

“I actually look forward to copycats. Obviously I’d prefer to be the Facebook of it but if we become the MySpace of it but start a revolution, then so be it.”

By Curt Sprang

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