Texting to House the Homeless

T3, Reagan Outdoor Join Mobile Loaves & Fishes in 'I Am Here'

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A homeless couple in Austin, Texas, now has a new home, thanks to a mobile giving and awareness campaign by Mobile Loaves & Fishes, an Austin-based nonprofit providing food and shelter to the homeless and working poor; marketing agency T3; and Reagan Outdoor.

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To draw attention to the effort, called "I Am Here," Danny, a homeless man, and MLF founder Alan Graham agreed to spend time on a 50-foot billboard in Austin during the effort's 48-hour launch April 27-29.

"Our mission is not about feeding and housing homeless people. Our mission is about empowering people to help," Mr. Graham said in kicking off the effort. "So what if all those people who were afraid to acknowledge a homeless person or just didn't know how to help could send a text donation? That moment, they'd become personally involved in mitigating this problem."

The campaign, which runs through the middle of this month, asked people to text "Danny" to 20222 to give $10 to help Danny and other homeless people get a home though MLF's Habitat on Wheels program. A home -- a gently used RV or mobile home -- is purchased every time 1,200 messages are received. The campaign far exceeded its goal of $12,000 in the first 48 hours and is now collecting money for more homes.

Danny, who became homeless after losing his job as a steelworker, has lived on the streets of Austin with his wife, Maggie, for the past 15 years. Five years ago, Maggie had a stroke and is now wheelchair-bound. The couple are among the more than 3.5 million Americans who are homeless. Despite this number, 1% of philanthropic dollars goes to organizations focuses on homelessness, according to the National Foundation Advisory Group for Ending Homelessness.

In addition to the outdoor component, the campaign includes print, TV, online, video and mobile. Clear Channel Radio is the exclusive radio media sponsor.

Last week, Danny and Maggie moved into their new home, a park model home in a community with 49 other people who have been moved off the streets through MLF. In addition, Danny was reunited with his daughter, whom he hadn't seen in years and who found him through coverage of the campaign.

"We are excited to see this campaign catch fire and raise funds for this important cause," said Ben Gaddis, T3's director of mobile and emerging technology, in a statement. "The partnership allowed us to leverage our expertise in marketing and the mobile sector to benefit an organization that we deeply believe in."

The campaign is part of MLF's Habitat on Wheels program, a housing model that puts the homeless into RVs. MLF was founded by Mr. Graham in Austin in 1998. Today, there are 15 MLF commissaries in seven cities that feed the hungry from pickup catering trucks every night.

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