• London has around 100 contactless donation points to raise money to support the city’s homeless.
  • Passersby tap to donate £3 (almost $4).
  • So far, some 51,000 taps have raised more than £150,000 ($196,000).
  • A Dutch company has created a jacket for homeless people that has a contactless payment device sewn into the front.

We carry less cash as we switch to paying for everything from coffee to bus fares with a tap of our debit and credit cards, phones or watches.

The lack of spare change in our pockets means fewer direct donations for the homeless. It’s a problem charities across the globe are well aware of - one some are addressing with contactless payment technology.

Tap to donate
Non-profit TAP London, in a city where rough sleeping rose by 18% between 2018-19, has installed roughly 100 contactless donation points in cafes, shops, and theatres across the city.

People “give a tap” to donate £3 (almost $4) to the London Homeless Collective, a coalition of 29 charities supported by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

So far around 51,000 taps have raised more than £150,000 ($196,000) for projects supporting homeless people in London, including providing safe rooms and support to young people, help with mental health issues, emergency severe weather shelters, and skills training.

TAP London says it hopes these small one-off payments will also help people address “the growing feeling of confusion and helplessness" that has surrounded the homelessness issue.

social innovation poverty change chairty charities group homelessness shelter london capital westminster credit cards contactless  rights families policy law court courts lawyers court cases legal case argument politics democracy capitalism socialism fairness economics government govern administration system power voting votes elections electing faith trust
Tap points are a quick way for Londoners to support homelessness initiatives.
Image: Twitter

The organization also ran a pilot project in which homeless vendors raised money for homeless charities and earned an income by selling art cards. Buyers gave a £3 donations (about $4 per donation) via a contactless “box”.

Charities and not-for-profit organizations elsewhere in the UK and around the world have adopted similar schemes, as contactless technology continues to gain prominence.

Tap for Bristol – a separate initiative from TAP London – has contactless donation points in businesses and cafes around the centre of Bristol, in south-west England.

social innovation poverty change chairty charities group homelessness shelter london capital westminster credit cards contactless  rights families policy law court courts lawyers court cases legal case argument politics democracy capitalism socialism fairness economics government govern administration system power voting votes elections electing faith trust
A new way to donate to charity.
Image: Twitter

Nearby in Bath, the Nationwide Building Society has teamed up with Julian House, a local homelessness charity, to trial a “contactless window poster” that allows people to tap and donate.

Other solutions in recent years have been varied. A contactless jacket from the Netherlands allowed donations to be redeemed donations for services like a place to sleep, a shower or a hot meal.

And in 2013, homeless magazine vendors on Stockholm’s streets received donations with card readers.

Looking ahead
The world is moving closer to a cashless society. Countries such as Sweden are expected to become completely cashless in just the next few years. In fact, one survey conducted for the ING bank found that, given the choice, one in three people in Europe would go completely cashless.

Still, experts warn that in the rush to embrace digital payments we risk leaving behind the most vulnerable in society, even in the world’s richest countries. As these cashless initiatives show, the homeless are among the first to be impacted by the gaps that new technologies and digital payments could create.