Greater Change, backed by Oxford University Innovation and Oxford’s Said Business School, has created wearable barcodes for rough sleepers so members of the public can give money using their smartphones.
Founder Alex McCallion told the BBC that creating the lanyards, which feature a QR code similar to those issued for online ticketing, solved the problem caused by more Britons relying on cards and mobile phones for payments.
"The solution we have come upon with is a giving mechanism through your smartphone to a restricted fund," he said of the initiative launched in late 2017 and currently being trialled in Oxford.
He added that another motive was to help homeless people save for long-term financial goals – rather than being forced to spend their money on short-term solutions.
A passerby without any notes or coins can use their smartphones to send money to a restricted fund. Each homeless person is assigned a case worker who co-manages their account to ensure that the money is spent on agreed targets, such as saving for a rental deposit or a new passport.
Benefactors will also be able to learn more about the recipient’s circumstances through an online profile that comes up when they scan the barcode.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, welcomed the invention, telling the Telegraph: “It’s encouraging to see that people want to help rough sleepers, but the bigger picture here is that neither rough sleeping nor any form of homelessness should be an issue in Britain today.”
Although those wishing to donate can scan with any browser, it is easier with the dedicated Greater Change app.
While the idea is being hailed as convenient and innovative, some people were not comfortable with the idea of scanning the homeless like groceries.
“I think it’s a bit weird to be honest, I’m not sure what difference it makes. It’s a bit like wearing a dog tag," one person told the BBC.
Earlier this year, Russell Blackman, the managing director of The Big Issue, revealed plans to combat the decline in sales for the magazine by rolling out cashless payments to all its vendors.
“It is vital that we develop the right contactless solution for our vendors, ensuring that they can get instant access to their funds, even if they don’t have their own bank account due to a lack of permanent address,” he told Creative Brief.
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