Introducing Helping Heart – A Contactless Payment Jacket to Help the Homeless

Posted on July 04, 2017

Olaf, one of the homeless people who helped to test the Helping Heart jacket in Amsterdam (N=5 2016)

Olaf, one of the homeless people who helped to test the Helping Heart jacket in Amsterdam (N=5 2016)

Adrienne Monteath Van Dok

The Social Innovation Partnership is looking for experts and partners in the homelessness sector, and those with lived experience of homelessness to work with us on developing the Helping Heart project.

Every day, fewer of us are choosing to carry cash in our pockets. Increasingly, we’re relying on our contactless payment cards to make even the smallest purchases – lessening our need to have cash or spare change on us. According to the UK Cards Association, over £3,913 million was spent in the UK in April using contactless cards – a rise of £147.6% on the previous year.

A cashless society

This growing shift to a cashless society is impacting both charities and individuals in need, such as homeless people, who still rely on cash donations. For example, YouGov research – commissioned by Barclaycard – found that “one in seven people admit to walking away from a donation opportunity at least once last year because they were unable to give using a debit or credit card.”

In response, organisations such as Oxfam, NSPCC and Big Issue began trialling contactless payment solutions to help collect money via different means on the street. 

Helping Heart

While researching the issue earlier this year, our team came across Helping Heart – an innovative, potential solution to the financial and social exclusion many homeless people face.

Helping Heart is a contactless payment jacket that enables people to donate money using their contactless payment card to the wearer. The idea was developed by N=5, the largest independent Dutch advertising agency, who – working with partners from the tech and Dutch homelessness sector – ran a small trial of the jacket with homeless people in the Netherlands last year.

The jacket, which is currently a warm winter coat, contains a card reader and LCD screen with instructions for use. The wearer of the jacket can then redeem any donations given for immediate or longer-term support through a participating homeless shelter/organisation.

An initial small pilot – run in Amsterdam and Rotterdam – was positively received in the Netherlands by the homeless people who used it, the official homeless shelter involved, and the members of the public who donated.

Our aims

At TSIP, we are particularly interested in the potential for this technology to:

  • Provide a way for people to give directly to a homeless person on the street that is safe and secure for everyone.
  • Strengthen the jacket wearer’s links to an established homeless shelter/organisation and support.
  • Empower users – through the design of the programme – to get back on their feet.
  • Create an empathetic connection between those wearing the Helping Heart and other members of the public.

Following discussions, we are pleased to announce that TSIP will be working with N=5, Five Degrees and Media Monks to develop this solution and, possibly, run a more extensive pilot in London in the future.

Working with the homelessness sector and those with lived experience

We fully recognise the sensitivities and ethical considerations involved in the development and use of the Helping Heart jacket. It is crucial that this solution is developed and tested in collaboration and consultation with the homelessness sector. It cannot progress without their input and support. 

We are, therefore, reaching out to experts in the homelessness sector, as well as those with lived experience, to identify if there is the appetite and/or potential for the jacket to be piloted and, in the future, used in the UK.

The feedback from our initial conversations with homelessness experts is already helping to inform and shape thinking about the next stage of this project.

But we need to know more. So, if you work in this sector and/or have lived experience of homelessness, and are interested in this project, please get in touch at contact@tsip.co.uk.

We want to hear your views.

Information about the Helping Heart partners

N=5, the largest independent Dutch Advertising Agency, is responsible for the idea, the design of the patch and the communication surrounding Helping Heart.

Five Degrees, a digital banking platform provider, is building a secure financial backend.

Media Monks, a global creative digital production company, is realising the tech.