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SHELTR is Joel Yaffe’s Answer to Hacking Homelessness, Starting with MTL

SHELTR is Joel Yaffe’s Answer to Hacking Homelessness, Starting with MTL

SHELTR, Joel yaffe's vision to solve homelessness

A local Montrealer named Joel Yaffe is taking on the challenge of Montreal’s ever growing homeless population with technology called Autogive and SHELTR.

AutoGive is a powerful beacon-based fundraising platform whereby beacons are distributed to the participants (homeless) and daily donors configure the autogive platform + app to connect and support the homeless. The User’s app reacts and responds to beacons deployed and sends donations to blockchain accounts…

In a city with cheap rent and social services, one imagines how can anyone “normal” end up homeless? After trying to help a homeless friend years ago, (and having dated more than one starving artist)  I’ve seen the decline from the society-connected we’ll call it (fixed address, phone, job) …to the disconnected happen faster than you might imagine.


I’ll tell you a true story. When I met my friend Michael, he had a dream job managing a well established hotel, fine suits, designer glasses and he was presumably living in Old Montreal. He had a phone and the usual things non-homeless people have: new clothes, food and an official address. As time went on, I became not only aware of the fact that he must be without a fixed dwelling… in an old tattered Louis Vuitton bag was a micro-world of his essentials belonging of new and old.

It was what you would have if a fireman came to your door and told you to grab a few things and get the fuck out. Important documents, his glasses, random notes with information, sample food. I never actually went through that bag, but I often watched with amazement as he meticulously took out the random objects of old and new.


I have heard, from multiple reliable sources, that he is in fact homeless and has been on and off for years. He is quite charismatic so people’s good will give him many warm meals and a place to lay his head (I know I did for 3 months and another kind woman did for 7)  winter’s coming and I fear for the safety of my once old friend. Sadly homelessness is a fertile breeding ground for delusions and dishonesty and Michael seems to be suffering from both in his will to survive, so I have had to cut ties for now, until I hear he is back on his feet…


Why am I telling you this story? Because if people had something in between project housing and The Mission  like Joel Yaffe’s vision for SHELTR, a large % of the almost-homeless demographic could avoid homelessness in the first place!

“Sadly, once someone is either off their meds too long or too long out of society, they become wildly unmanageable for social services to re-integrate. I have even heard of stories where homeless people were brought into homes only for the kind home owner to find they have returned back outside, to the corner they knew as “home” -Joel Yaffe

Inspired from the capsule or hive hotels of Japan, these stackable shelters where people can store their stuff, get a micro bedroom and use shared washrooms are perhaps the answer to low cost housing for the homeless. Joel believes that part of hacking homelessness is providing every citizen the right to a lost cost human right to sleep indoors. Until the government recognizes this right, the crowd funded solution with Auto giving can fill the void. It also eliminates people’s worry that their spare change is going towards cigarettes or alcohol.

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The eco-system structure proposed in SHELTR makes each homeless participant an active contributor in solving the problem for everyone and not just themselves, providing a communal feel and helping to raise self esteems. This project is brilliant and I hope to see it take off soon!

P.S If you think Welfare is the answer, think again. I’m not sure why called it WELL-FARE, as it doesn’t allow you to be “Well” or LIVE, it allows you to BARELY SURVIVE. Here is some math I did, with an actor I dated briefly when he was trying to budget. At the time, his monthly payments were $660 a month. (now they are $680).

Room rental $350
Hair cut for Play $40
Cigarettes $90 
Groceries $50
Bus fare to get to auditions and workshops $40
Shaving cream $3
Winter jacker (Next month)
Owe phone bill $120 (Next month)

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