SEATTLE -- The desire is there to go from homeless to housed, but the path to achieve this goal is not easy. Nicole Simper knows. A teenage runaway, Simper spent the last 10 years living on the street, either in a tent or a shelter. She’s struggled with addiction but said she’s been clean and sober for more than 2 years now.
“I just wanna’ get my life back together,” she said.
Simper got a huge break, when she met someone who hooked her up with the Samaritan App for smart phones. Samaritan made her one of its ‘beacon holders’ which means she wears a Bluetooth necklace that connects with the app.
When an app user is near Simper, her profile pops on the user’s screen. The Samaritan user can read Simper’s story and then choose to donate a few dollars to her.
Simper doesn't get cash, but she can spend the money donated to her account, at partner stores, like Grocery Outlet and Goodwill, which is where she said someone recognized her from the app and helped her earn her GED.
“You know Samaritan has helped me. I've met a lot of interesting people; I've done a lot,” said Simper.
Now that she’s sober and has that GED, Simper is working toward a forklift certification to get a full time job.
Staying in a shelter, she said someone there also recognized her from the app, providing another blessing.
“She came up to me and said, 'Hey, I recognize you. I want to get you into housing,” said Simper.
It worked, so now Simper’s working on that job to become even more stable.
"Having a roof over my head is 100% better,” said Simper.
The Samaritan app's helped move more than 20 people off Seattle streets and into some kind of housing since it debuted. Jonathan Kumar who created the app, said that saves the city of Seattle about $40,000 per person per year. He created the app with a grant from Vulcan Inc. as part of Paul Allen’s initiative to reduce homelessness and said the city’s yet to contribute.
More than 7,000 people currently use the app to donate to people like Simper, who must attend counseling to stay in the program.