December 8, 2017
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Have a spare room? A Bay Area nonprofit wants you to share it with a family in need

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

The housing crisis in the Bay Area has inspired many locals to come up with solutions in their own communities. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Every Friday, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at info@therenewalproject.com.

Housing boon: It’s like Airbnb for families in need. Chuck Grant co-founded the nonprofit Safe Time Home Sharing earlier this year after being inspired by families who opened their homes to refugees. The retired California businessman saw a need in his own East Bay community, just outside of San Francisco. For his idea, he borrowed from Airbnb’s housing share model: “Everybody’s willing to let strangers come in their home for a few bucks, I figured maybe there are people out there who will let strangers come into their homes for karma points,” Grant told the San Francisco Chronicle. Safe Time pairs individuals and families in need of housing with homeowners who have open rooms. The organization partners with schools, churches, police, and community organizations who recommend applicants to the nonprofit. Applicants must be sober, with no history of violence or substance abuse, and they must have a credible plan to achieve traditional housing within a few months. Grant told the Chronicle that Safe Time conducts a more detailed background check at the request of hosts. Once a match is made, the potential host and guests have time to get to know each other before moving in. Learn more about the program on their website safetimehost.org.

Protecting workers: High school senior Faith Florez created an app that in many ways is a tribute to her family. Florez’s grandparents were farmworkers who moved from Mexico to California’s Central Valley to tend the fields. Florez, who grew up in the same agricultural community as her grandparents, heard stories from her family of the hardships of working in the fields under the hot California sun. “They would work 10 hours or more a day, through 100-degree heat, sometimes without breaks, water, or shade,” Florez told Civil Eats. Florez found an opportunity to design an app with help from the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, which issued a call for proposals on projects that addressed social justice issues. The result is CalorApp, which alerts farmworkers of high temperatures and educates them on their rights. (“Calor” means “heat” in Spanish.) The president of the United Farm Workers Arturo Rodriguez says that “too many California farmworkers have died from extreme heat.” This app creates a tool to alert workers—and their employers—when temperatures become potentially dangerous.

Pop-up learning: Students from New York City’s Food and Finance High School will have the opportunity to learn on the job, while raising money for their school. This month, students are operating their own pop-up cafe at the school, which is in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan. Murphy’s Beans n’ Dreams launches next week, and will feature fresh-brewed coffee and homemade pastries. The cafe is named in honor of the school’s founder, Richard Murphy, who died in 2013. The students will learn what it’s like to set up and manage a real business, and the profits will go toward a scholarship fund, reported The New York Times.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.