As tech companies continue to become a fixture in many U.S. cities, the juxtaposition between the fast-paced growth, high-rises and even higher salaries can be difficult to fathom next to the growing homelessness problem many of these same cities face. A recent L.A. Times article shared how homelessness in Los Angeles is on the rise – up 16 percent over last year in the city. Now, two companies are looking to assuage the issue in the communities they operate in.
Tech companies WeTransfer and Headspace recently came together for a different type of collaboration. Last month the two organizations announced they would partner to pay off nearly $30 million of medical debt for those facing financial hardship in the Los Angeles area. The idea for the effort came when Amsterdam-based WeTransfer opened a U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles in 2016 and quickly saw the impact of the growing homelessness problem in the surrounding community. Getting to one of the roots of a complex issue, the company found “60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies are due to medical debt, and consequently a leading source for homelessness.” Damian Bradfield, President and CMO of WeTransfer recently explained the motivation, “We chose to tackle medical debt because it's an impactful way to make a real difference for residents who are struggling to pay their bills and make a dent in larger issues that medical debt can lead to like homelessness.” The effort is in addition to a set of guidelines WeTransfer released earlier this year on how “growing tech companies can better engage with and support their new communities” called “On Companies and Communities.”
As tech companies continue to grow and become more entrenched in the places they operate in, it becomes even more important to understand how they can be a force for positive change on a local level. The latest move from WeTransfer and Headspace sends a big, bold message to the L.A. community that they want to be active participants in solving a regional issue in a systematic way. In this way, the companies not only make the places around their facilities better places to live and work, but also help to build license to operate in these communities.