New app takes guesswork out of giving to the homeless

Carebacks is an app that makes sure money given to someone on the street isn't used for alcohol or drugs. It also makes it easier to donate electronically.

"I met a lot of homeless people in my life: women, men child," said Milu Simon, who is temporarily homeless. "You're supposed to get a job, but it's hard to get a job sometimes. I used to work at the Double Tree Hotel in New Orleans."

Once a hotel room cleaner, Simon now begs on the corner of Calliope and Camp Street. He collects money, and the occasional bag of bread, from drivers passing by.

"When I get enough money I might go to Popeye's, I might go to Burger King, I might go to a Chinese place and get me something to eat," said Simon.

He said he sleeps on the streets when his disability check runs out during the last few nights of each month.

"I live right under the bridge right there," said Simon, pointing to Interstate 10. "It's scary sometimes."

He knows he's supposed to cut back on greasy food because of his diabetes, but he said drivers rarely hand him enough money to make a grocery store run.

That's one reason why Neel Sus created the app Carebacks.

"The idea is, we want to remove the friction from giving. We as humans, we want to help each other," said Sus,who is CEO of Susco Solutions.

The Carebacks app lets people give a virtual gift card to local stores that have signed up for the program, such as Breaux Mart and Brown Derby, or to Salvation Army for a free night's stay.

Carebacks Marketing Manager George Van Wormer showed FOX 8 how to sign in to the app and donate a minimum of $5.

A four-digit PIN number is generated that you can write down and hand to someone asking for money.

"You can also track it, which is pretty cool," said Van Wormer. "It can tell you when it was redeemed and where it was redeemed. So you gain that personal aspect from it, and at the end of the year, you can see how much you've given."

The money cannot be redeemed for tobacco or alcohol.

Simon said it can be hard to come across food and water, so he said Carebacks could certainly help him.

With a gift card to Breaux Mart, Simon said he would buy, "Bologna, wheaties, chicken, and pork chops and a steak - all kinds of stuff - peas in a can."

"You got a lot of people that need help in life," said Simon.

Any donation that is not redeemed in 48 hours is donated directly to the Salvation Army.

The Carebacks app is ready for download on Android phones, and it will soon be available for iPhones. It can also be used on the web.

For more information about Carebacks, or to sign up your company as a Carebacks vendor, click here.

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