An innovative strategy ahead of National Homelessness Week 2021 – cryptocurrency

August 1, 2021 by Rachel Phillips
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Sydney’s Jewish House has announced its strategy to tackle homelessness head-on with the roll-out of several innovative programs, platforms and partnerships, including the development of a new online & text resource tool for ‘Couch Surfers’ at risk of becoming homeless, and a bold move into the Cryptocurrency philanthropy space.

Jewish House CEO Rabbi Mendel Kastel said today: “In NSW, homelessness continues to be an issue that requires community-wide support to alleviate. Specialist homelessness services primarily support people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness.

Our team has seen first-hand the impact the global COVID-19 pandemic has had on families here in our local community. Over the past 12 months, the flow-on effect has been devastating, in the spike in homeless or at-risk homeless clients needing our support has been unprecedented. We have quickly responded to those in need and now pivot our focus on prevention via technology and collaboration. We have spent analysing our data and identifying key areas to intervene earlier and support at-risk people so we can stop them from becoming homeless in the first place. Our two main focus areas are Couch Surfers and Cryptocurrency for philanthropy”.

Eighteen months ago, Jewish House launched the Mend App, a free online tool enabling the general public to connect a homeless person or rough-sleeper with professional services and support needed to help them get back on their feet again. This technology has played a vital role in connecting vulnerable people with crisis services and increased productivity by streamlining the administrative processes of housing homeless people.

Jewish House has announced the development of the next phase of this application – the Couch Surfer Support Platform.

“Couch surfers are among those counted as homeless; far from the widely-held definition of the term. With more than 16,000 couch surfing adults currently in NSW, it’s essential that secure housing is made available for them. On some level, people usually associate couch surfers with someone staying over at a friend’s place, sleeping on somebody’s couch,” Rabbi Kastel said. “But unfortunately, couch surfing applies to homelessness among those staying in a place that is not appropriate. Their mental health can be severely affected by not knowing how long they’re going to be there, feeling bad about how they’re possibly putting their friends out, to more sinister s things where they’re trying to get a bed and are willing to do almost anything to be able to have a roof over their heads.”

Couch Surfer is a tool designed to step in earlier than Mend. Couch Surfer assists those at risk of homelessness who may be residing at no fixed address and often stay with a friend or family member. Couch Surfer connects these vulnerable individuals with services to secure longer-term, stable housing and prevent homelessness. The Couch Surfer platform also offers support and information to the host accommodating the couch surfer. We acknowledge that their role in preventing homelessness is crucial, and therefore aim to support them during these times when a breakdown in communication and relationships can occur.

A couch surfer or a host who needs assistance fills in a web form or sends an SMS. Key questions are answered and stored in the platform, which is used to identify how to help. Information is given to a live operator to assist mediation between couch surfer and hosts, remove any anxiety and enable everyone to work together. Couch surfers and hosts are subsequently connected to the appropriate service to achieve a long-term outcome.

Jewish House has formed a partnership with Aus Merchant, taking them into a philanthropic expansion into crypto-currency as a new accepted donation stream, joining several trusted and well-known charities such as Save the Children, Humanity Road and The American Red Cross.

To kick off this partnership, FTX Foundation has generously pledged their support to match all donations made in cryptocurrency to Jewish House during Homelessness Week up to $10,000 USD.

Rabbi Kastel commented: “Your contribution goes directly towards funding 36 beds in Jewish House’s William Cooper Subsidised Housing properties across Sydney.  Our target is to raise $100,000 AUD in cryptocurrency to secure this location for an entire year during Homelessness Week. The accommodation has been made available by the landlord at a generous rate. With the reasonable contribution made by each tenant, Jewish House now requires roughly $50 per bed per week to fund the project entirely. Securing long-term accommodation provides stability for housing placements and allows the possibility of a greater level of support. This particular location will likely support around 100 people over the year for people in need.

A spokesperson for Aus Merchant added: Every dollar (or token!) will go directly to getting people in crisis off the street and given support, whether through shelter, health or employment. Jewish House provides services to get people back on their feet and become fully self-sufficient again or overcome the difficulties they are facing.”

Aus Merchant processes all cryptocurrency donations for Jewish House and is a safe, secure, fast and unique way for philanthropists to make a difference in people’s lives here in the local community.  Aus Merchant is committed to supporting Jewish House in its work to end homelessness.

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