Reflecting on MLK: What can you do for your village?

On this day of reflection, we honor the timeless values Martin Luther King Jr. upheld: courage, dignity, pursuit of justice, and speaking truth to power. These values are important to us at HandUp, and fuel the work we do to address systemic racism and homelessness in our home city of San Francisco.

On October 17th, 2016, HandUp partnered with the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (DHSH) and local nonprofits to organize a town hall addressing racism and homelessness. The event was packed with over 800 attendees and included an amazing line-up of speakers including Carolyn Tyler of ABC7, Dr. Ken Hardy of the Eikenberg Institute for Relationships, and more (see photos below and watch the full event video). As we celebrate Dr. King today, we remember the important messages our speakers had to share.  

Full Event Video:


The hard truth is that people of color are significantly more likely to experience homelessness than the general U.S. population. As Jeff Olivet from the Center for Social Innovation pointed out, “Homelessness is driven by structural and institutional racism in this country. The proportion of African Americans experiencing homelessness is about three times that of the general population.”

Though it is heavy and hard work, as we see the truth we are also reminded of Dr. King’s unwavering optimism in the face of struggle. Joe Wilson of the nonprofit Hospitality House encouraged us to find hope by taking action, “If we want to change this, we have to expose ourselves to new experiences. I hope that everyone in the room recognizes that we all have a responsibility to do something. We have a responsibility to see people on the streets as part of our village.”


We have a responsibility to see people on the streets as part of our village
— Joe Wilson, Hospitality House

As you go on with your MLK holiday, whether you’re out volunteering or at home cozied up with a book, take a moment to think about how you can help your village. Is there a local nonprofit you’ve been meaning to get involved with? Is there a local activist group you could donate to? Or is your goal simply to say hello to the next homeless neighbor you pass? What one thing you can do to change the way we think about racism and homelessness?

Whatever you decide to do, please share it with us online. Use the hashtag #HandUpMLK to tell us what you’re doing for your community. You can also see our online discussion on Neighborland where we have aggregated comments from participants at the event.

- Sammie

A Year End Letter From Our Founders

To our friends and supporters,

Looking back on the year, we couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who has supported our work here at HandUp.

For those of you who have followed our journey for a while, you might remember Rodney Bell, the professional paraplegic wheelchair dancer who lost his job and fell into homelessness in San Francisco. After three years on the streets and battles with illness, Rodney used HandUp to get a plane ticket back to his home in New Zealand. Just a few weeks ago, we got an update from Rodney and wanted to share it with all of you. 


Rodney is now housed, because of you! He’s also employed again, working on a new dance piece that will share his journey from fame in an internationally renowned dance troupe to his life on the streets of San Francisco.

Learn about Rodney's work in New Zealand

In an interview with the New Zealand Herald, Rodney shared his story, as well as some important wisdom about addressing homelessness,

“We need to look at homelessness holistically… It's not one solution fits all. Listening with respect and open mindedness is important… When you haven't got support systems in place... it's hard to climb back. You've got to dig deep and something's got to trigger that energy in you.”

As the New Year approaches, we know how many homeless neighbors are trying to dig deep, to find the courage to take the next steps. But it's hard. When you donated to Rodney to help him move out of homelessness, you weren’t just giving money, you were showing Rodney he’s seen. He’s not invisible.

In a nation that is currently incredibly divided, we look to you, our community, to dig deep as well. Our homeless neighbors are more vulnerable now than ever. Please join our efforts and support HandUp with a one-time tax deductible gift or commit to monthly support through the National Fund. Any amount can make an impact.

Thank you for your compassion and drive to help us make change. Together you helped us reach our 10,000th homeless neighbor like Rodney this year! To date, HandUp has grown to serve 90 nonprofits in 30 cities across the US with $1.79M raised to alleviate homelessness and poverty. With your support, we’re ready for even more impact in 2017.

With hope and gratitude,

Rose & Sammie

SF Mayor Ed Lee Announces HandUp Gift Card Expansion

There are two questions that Jeff Kositsky, San Francisco’s Director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, gets asked often - 'How can I help?' and 'Should I give money to people?'. The answers to these questions are complicated but there are innovative solutions. One such solution comes in the small but powerful form of a gift card.

Jeff Kositsky introducing Mayor Ed Lee at the HandUp Gift Card press conference

HandUp Gift Cards are physical cards with a $25 value that can be purchased and then given to a homeless neighbor to redeem for goods and services like food, clothing, and paying bills. The cards not only offer financial stimulus but give people suffering from homelessness the chance to connect with nonprofits ready to provide support and care.

 See how HandUp Gift Cards work in this video

Gift cards can be bought online at and now can also be purchased at retail locations like Equator Coffees and The Hall on Market Street. The centers that redeem cards have also expanded to include the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center, MSC South Shelter in SOMA and the United Council of Neighborhood Services in the Bayview. 

HandUp Gift Cards featured at Equator Coffees & Teas

Mayor Ed Lee announced the expansion in special press conference alongside Rose Broome and Sammie Rayner, the CEO and COO of HandUp. Other speakers included Kara Zordel, Executive Director of Project Homeless Connect and Justin Steele from

"With HandUp Gift Cards, companies and nonprofits are really coming together to connect those in need to services and support." - Mayor Ed Lee
“Homelessness is such a visible problem and people are looking for ways to give back,” Rose Broome told TechCrunch. “We’re excited to have the city’s support in promoting HandUp Gift Cards as a way the community can respond to homelessness.”

This is one step in HandUp’s continued work to reach more neighbors in need across San Francisco and beyond. If you are a business owner, and you would like to offer HandUp Gift Cards at your retail location, please reach out to