Thursday, March 10, 2016

Rose Broome uses crowdfunding to offer hope to homeless By Kevin Fagan

Rose Broome is a techno-nerd. Proudly so. She also agonizes emotionally about the homeless. Proudly so. She sees no disconnect there, contrary to stereotypes of uncaring, young and well-off techies. And she has put proof to that lack of disconnect by founding — and taking to wild success — one of the more compassionate technological enterprises to emerge in recent years to help the penniless. Three years ago, 34-year-old Broome invented a crowdfunding program to raise money tailored to individual homeless people. She called it HandUp, and to date, it has helped 1,637 people with more than $1.07 million funneled through her site — and she’s just getting started. “I don’t have all the answers; I have a lot of questions,” said Broome, whose innocent-seeming sincerity belies the steely, no-nonsense interior of someone who knows how to hammer home deals. “But as a person who has worked in tech, I have seen how new ideas are nurturing and encouraging.” For acting on that conviction, Broome has been nominated for the second annual Visionary of the Year award, sponsored by The Chronicle and St. Mary’s College of Economics and Business Administration. Some people need dentures. Others need glasses or security deposits for moving indoors — the sort of things someone who is down and out needs to get up and running in life. And as they fill those needs, donors get to follow their progress online. It’s a double-feel-good loop. Clients are found through case managers who help the needy, and donations are processed through organizations such as Project Homeless Connect so that they are sure to go to the need delineated. The organization started out in San Francisco and is still based there, but it has expanded around the nation to locations including Detroit, Oregon and Utah. At the time, Broome was working as a data analyst for a self-improvement startup, offering games to help people cope with sickness or lose weight. Four months later, with the help of hackathon buddies Zac Witte and Sammie Rayner, HandUp was born. It took months of fishing for startup money before she caught the ear of angel investor Jason Calacanis. He gave her $35,000, which was enough to get up and running. Soon investors from Ron Conway, who nominated her for the award, to CEO Marc Benioff were weighing in, and she was well on her way. “I’m a New York and Los Angeles transfer, and I’d moved to San Francisco and was in complete shock at what I saw here on the streets,” Calacanis said. “So when I met Rose I was really intrigued. “Rose is an amazing person, and what she started changed my life,” said Ronnie Goodman, 55, who gained national attention as an artist and competitive runner while living in a tent in San Francisco for five years. Goodman moved indoors in December after he got more than $3,000 in move-in costs through HandUp. “What I got was not charity, not a handout,” Goodman said. “It was a belief in what I was doing — belief in helping people up, giving them a hand. It’s beautiful.” SFGATE Photo