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Bitcoin Helps Homeless Charity Sean’s Outpost go from Strength to Strength By Pete Rizzo @ Coindesk

Bitcoin Helps Homeless Charity Sean’s Outpost go from Strength to Strength By Pete Rizzo @ Coindesk

By: Donna Hancock

For most organizations, bitcoin is a long-term investment, a tangible way to turn economic principles into immediate action and satisfy a small but growing base of customers.

To Sean’s Outpost, bitcoin is more than just a value-add, it’s become indivisible from the organization itself.

Jason King, founder of the famed Pensacola, Florida, homeless outreach center, tells CoinDesk that the virtual currency has been instrumental in helping it bypass challenges posed by the local political and business climate, and to achieve results that could inspire others to use its blueprint to enact real change in the non-profit sector.

Indeed, Sean’s Outpost’s transformation this year has been dramatic. Before bitcoin, the organization was providing 50 meals to the local homeless community, one day a week.

Fast forward to November, and those numbers have exploded to 900 meals a week, spread across nine different sharings.

Turning point

The turning point was 17th March, the day when Sean’s Outpost began accepting bitcoin for donations with this pitch: “Donate 1 BTC and we will feed 40 people.” The economics were simple, it cost $1.25 to make a bagged lunch and deliver it to one homeless person, and 1 BTC was worth $50.

Within 12 hours, Wired reported Sean’s Outpost raised enough for 80 meals. Eighteen hours later, it had received enough donations to meet two months of mortgage payments.

Sean’s Outpost seized the idea, starting the Bitcoin Homeless Outreach Center and building Satoshi Forest, a nine-acre, live-in sanctuary for the area’s homeless.

King believes this success is just the beginning. Like claims that bitcoin could someday be worth $1m, he sees no limit to his vision for Sean’s Outpost and its work.
“What if we can make [Satoshi's Forest] sustainable?” King asks. “Produce all the food we need and a surplus that can be sold locally to cover all operating expenses? Then what? Could we take our existing fundraising efforts and use them to build another sustainable food forest somewhere else? Then another? And what if we could hold the whole thing up and say ‘bitcoin did this?’”

It’s this boundless enthusiasm for the power of bitcoin that, in the words of one redditor, has done much to “promote and legitimize bitcoin in the eyes of the mainstream,” especially at a time when stories about black markets proliferate.

Now, with bitcoin topping $700, King spoke with CoinDesk for an interview to discuss the affect this price is having on his operations, his vision and Sean’s Outpost’s future.

Dealing with bitcoin’s volatility

With so many watershed moments in bitcoin community this year, it’s easy to forget that it’s still a nascent community.

Sean’s Outpost isn’t the only non-profit working with bitcoin, but it’s one of the earliest and most well-known examples, meaning it is in many ways serving as the litmus test for how non-profits can work with the bitcoin market and its unique needs.

Bitcoin allows you to tell your story to the whole world, and the people that agree with you, that want to come to your aid with their treasure, can do just that, in a fraction of a second, from anywhere on the planet.

The foremost concern for many organizations has been bitcoin’s volatility. So far, King says that bitcoin’s price swings haven’t affected his operations, either positively or negatively.

But, this might be due to his unspoken yet apparent view that money, in any form, is only a means to an end.

“The price is awesome. Really, really, really awesome,” King said. “But, I think it was bitcoin itself that changed our way of thinking. We just see more possibilities now, and that’s true at any price.”

King said that he doesn’t worry about price drops, but acknowledges that they require his business to make adjustments, often selling off bitcoin during price dips.

“I can’t really justify telling a guy he’s not going to eat because I need to wait a week for the correction to straighten out,” King said.

As price rises, so do donations
While price is less of a concern, according to King, he does credit bitcoin with enabling his organization to “draft the white paper” on how charities can seek support from virtual currency communities.

For example, King is looking to add other revolutionary technologies to Satoshi’s Forest, like permaculture and aquaponics, so that it can produce the food it uses to feed Pensacola’s homeless. Additions that likely wouldn’t have been possible without support and publicity from the bitcoin community.

“We want Sean’s Outpost and Satoshi Forest to be a sandbox for testing out bold ideas that could really make a difference on poverty,” King said.

“Some ideas are going to fail. And that’s OK. It’s iterative. But, some stuff is really going work. And when it does, we will be able to push those ideas out to the rest of the world to try and make work, too.”

Early indications are King can rely on one thing increasing as he seeks to test out his ideas " the support of those who donate to his cause.

King notes Sean’s Outpost receives “a little more” in total donations each month, and that the number of donors and frequency of donations are rising steadily, despite fluctuations in the price of bitcoin.

Ready for the future

Most impressive about King may be his resolve. He indicates that Sean’s Outpost still doesn’t raise enough to cover his operating expenses through donations, and that he’d continue the non-profit even if he never received any more support.

“This is pretty much all I want to do,” King said. “I will probably spend my own money on doing this for the rest of my life, smiling the whole time.”

Still, King says he is continually humbled by support from the bitcoin community, and is firm in his belief that bitcoin helped him to appeal to bypass a local climate that he describes as “very anti-homeless”.

“[Bitcoin] allows you to tell your story to the whole world, and the people that agree with you, that want to come to your aid with their treasure, can do just that, in a fraction of a second, from anywhere on the planet,” King said.

“At no time in all of history has that been possible. But, it is now. And it is frictionless. That’s why it has been so powerful for Sean’s Outpost. That’s why it will change everything.”
This article was written by Pete Rizzo  at Coindesk.Com.
Pete Rizzo has been a full-time editor specializing in business-to-consumer and business-to-business finance since 2010. He enjoys long drives, yoga and rock 'n' roll music. He has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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