The new year heralds new opportunities, new resolutions, even new versions of yourself.
But for those who are homeless, January brings hunger and the blistering cold.
N=5 is an independent media company in Amsterdam that could help on both counts with the contactless payment jacket, fondly referred to as ‘Helping Heart’.
The company designed a jacket, to be worn by the homeless, that would allow people to donate money to them via contactless card.
The idea of the jacket came about after the team at N=5 read an article in which Queen Maxima of the Netherlands was quoted:
Not all homeless people are on the streets begging for money for a quick win, a lot of them are trying to rebuild their life.
Silvia van Hooft, an N=5 employee, told indy100:
[Firstly], these days we tend to carry little or no cash at all. Secondly, most people would like to help the homeless, but they feel that giving money basically goes to supporting addictions. So, we wondered: how we can make it easier for people to help others who need it?
The coat looks very much like any other sold in the winter: it has a hood, and the inside is lined with thick material to keep the wearer warm. The front of the jacket has a contactless payment symbol, along with ‘Helping Heart’ stamped on it, as well as the one Euro limit people can donate.
If you want to donate, all you have to do is hover your card over the electronic reader, and the one euro is debited from your bank account.
We integrated an innovative device which allows people to donate one euro by simply tapping their card on it.
But how can you prevent the money you give, from being used to feed a vice - like alcoholism or drug addiction?
The only way to redeem the money received this way is through one of the official homeless shelters. The money never goes to the homeless person as cash, but is always redeemed in kind. This way, it can be spent on a place to sleep, a shower or food. The homeless person can also choose to spend it on self-improvement, like vocational training courses or even in building up savings.
Several homeless people trialled the jacket, which is still in the prototype phase, and the majority of positive feedback comes from the homeless community.
They [the homeless] have embraced the fact that it takes away the concern of how your donation will be spent. Organisations for the homeless are also very positive about the fact that it contributes to more than just immediate challenges – the possibility for a homeless person to use donations to better themselves through education and savings is seen as a huge benefit.
The jacket has generated much interest, and the Helping Heart initiative has been widely covered in major Dutch media titles.
Hooft and her team hope to produce, at scale, a version that’s safe and compact.