Having never been to Portland, I never really understood the Internet obsession with the city. Now, it’s coming into focus a bit for me.
A non-profit in Portland called Sanctity of Hope has devised a token system that people can give to the homeless population in the city. The system was devised to allow people who have reservations about giving no-strings-attached cash to the homeless population. Instead, these same people can buy tokens and give them to the homeless in the city, which they can then exchange for important services – like food, shelter and haircuts – in the hopes that these, in turn, can help lift the homeless population off their feet. (The tokens can’t be used on alcohol, drugs or alcohol, although if the tokens take off, I’m not sure how sure you can be about the drug thing.) It’s almost like an adaptation of the Heart system, which commenter P tipped me off to, in which participants can earn credits for good deeds that they do.
The system is just getting started; the non-profit only has 16 businesses involved so far. Also, not knowing anything about Portland geography, I don’t know how far away the businesses are from one another, or how easily accessible the information about the involved businesses is to the homeless population. Regardless, even if most of those people probably don’t always spend their money so wisely themselves, it’s a nice compromise for people who do want to help, but who don’t feel comfortable giving money to homeless people. After all, just because a gift isn’t truly a gift when it comes with strings attached, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t develop creative opportunities to help donations remove homeless people from the cycle of poverty.