How Silicon Valley is changing the way we help the homeless

Evan Howard needed to make giving money easy.
He was in charge of fundraising for one of San Francisco’s oldest and best-known community outreach organizations for hunger and homelessness— Glide Memorial Church. For the past decade, receipts from the offering plate and mail drives had been declining.


Code of Honor: New and Old San Francisco Cultures Unite to Solve an Intractable Problem

In December, Greg Gopman, former CEO of AngelHack, infuriated the public and reinforced tech stereotypes of disconnection and entitlement when he posted a rant on his Facebook page:

“Why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue… In downtown SF the degenerates gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy, they act like they own the center of the city… It’s a burden and a liability having them so close to us.”

SF “HACKtivation” Matches Homeless Nonprofits with Tech Talent

While the tech community continues to be demonized across San Francisco, nearly 100 mostly tech workers acted as angels this weekend by donating their expertise to a dozen homeless nonprofit organizations.

In a format similar to a hackathon, where small teams form to develop software programs overnight, ReAllocate’s HACKtivation for the Homeless paired nonprofit organizations with volunteers to address technical challenges that would otherwise be out of reach for the cash-strapped organizations. “Not everybody is being included in how fast things are changing and the benefits of those changes,” said ReAllocate’s Executive Director Kyle Stewart, who cofounded the event with community organizer Ilana Lipsett. “There are opportunities for technology to help inside these established organizations.”

Hackathon Sends Techies to Meet, Greet, Videotape the Homeless

Filmmaker Ken Fisher was preparing about a hundred tech workers to find, talk to and videotape homeless people in the vicinity of the Twitter building in midtown San Francisco.

“For safety’s sake, we should go out in pairs. … Have a discussion guide with you, and rehearse so you don’t need to read off it,” Fisher said to the group about to leave the social giant’s refurbished mid-Market Street office building (they were, specifically, in Yammer’s office space). “Ask before videotaping. That said, I tend to ask forgiveness rather than permission. You usually get good results either way.”

Hacktivation event seeks ways for tech to help S.F. homeless

Technology whizzes, nonprofit workers and others will converge this weekend in San Francisco to try to cook up new tech-savvy ways to help the homeless in a series of get-togethers organizers are calling Hacktivation for the Homeless.

The projects will be fleshed out during sessions planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but for now they include creating an online store for homeless artists to sell their work and handing video cameras out to homeless people and their neighbors to document their everyday lives.

Hacktivation for the Homeless – Preparation

Pre-HacktivationOn March 28th, 29th, and 30th ReAllocate is hosting the next Hacktivation – a purpose-driven hackathon that connects nonprofits and social impact projects with skilled tech volunteers. Hacktivations begin with a series of pitches for projects, followed by a weekend-long push to make them a reality. This time the event will focus on homelessness in San Francisco.

To ensure that the projects can make a real impact ReAllocate is partnering with local nonprofit organizations devoted to serving the homeless. By having these organizations identify the challenges to be addressed, the Hacktivation will focus on real world problems with achievable solutions. This event marks the beginning of a bimonthly series of events facilitating collaboration on social impact projects and ongoing civic participation.


The nonprofits partners have identified a variety of problems and challenges as well as some possible solutions. Projects include capacity building opportunities to help organizations with their internal technology needs, long term technology projects that work between organizations to help address gaps in the current system, and community engagement opportunities to get directly involved with the local community. A full list of projects is available here.

On March 28th local nonprofits will be presenting the projects they need help with and over the course of the next two days participants will be working closely with them to build the solutions they need.  If you have skills that you want to reallocate, sign up and join the Hacktivation!


ReAllocate’s Hacktivation for the Homeless Partners

Caravan StudiosCode for America, Coit GroupCommunity Housing Partnership, Dev BootcampEpiscopal Community Services, GLIDE, GoodwillHandUp, Highground HackersHospitality House, Innovation Alley, Larkin Street Youth ServicesLava Mae, LyftProject Homeless Connect, SF Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, Shareable, Social Enterprise Alliance – San Francisco Bay Area ChapterSpotifySt. Anthony FoundationSt. Francis Living RoomTenderloin Housing Clinic, Tenderloin Technology LabYammer, Zenput

SF Hackivation

Put 40 developers in a old victorian mansion house in San Francisco, add social innovation projects that need development help, stir in food and a dash of beer to create a recipe for spontaneous community and cooperative innovation.

This is what happened on June 8th when ReAllocate hosted its first Hackivation, sponsored by RYOT Magazine and Our partners, Bay Bucks, Poll Vault, Hero Hatchery, Stop the Pity and RYOT Magazine brought their teams, opened up their code base and presented development challenges for participants to dig into!


Teams self organized around the projects they wanted to work on and everyone was coding up a storm within an hour of the kick off presentations. Chong Kee, a co-founder of Bay Bucks, came looking for a mobile app to allow customers to use their local currency on their phones. Bay Bucks had a hiccup with their API but the team perservered and built the mobile app through help from UI/UX designers and full-stack developers. “The hackathon also totally exceeded my expectations. Previous hackathon I’ve been to spent a lot of time pitching different ideas, form and reform teams, and little time coding. This one had a very clean pitching phase because of pre-selection and it freed up ample time to code.” -Chong Kee

People could be found spread through the house hacking on their chosen projects. Chefs where in the kitchen preparing food to keep the teams focused and videographers moved between rooms to capture the energy and share the story. Nolan Lee led his team to build a series of visualization features for PollVault to help people vote smarter and share information about upcoming elections. Nolan was up until 5 AM the night before preparing for the Hackivation and his pre planning paid off big in getting all his desired features built. “All in all, Hackivation was a rousing success for us. My key takeaways are these: 1) The more you prepare, the better your results will be. 2) Cast a wide net in scoping your project so that anyone can contribute in some capacity. 3) Hackers with good minds AND good hearts are gold… treat them that way and you will be richly rewarded.”