At just 35, Mark Watson has quite the social justice rap sheet.

He started as an artist, then received a master’s degree in social work at the University of Kansas. Upon graduation, he moved to Florida to teach kids in at-risk neighborhoods.

Now he’s working to allow the homeless community better access to technology.

Watson’s idea, which he calls the Digital Home Identity Project, helps those without computers the ability to create online cloud-based storage accounts where they can upload scans of important documents, such as IDs or birth certificates.

And he’s reaching out to the community to help fund his idea. Recently, Watson launched an IndieGoGo campaign with a goal of $10,000 by mid-April. In its first month, the project has raised $1,400.

The money will buy Watson a portable computer, scanner and wireless card that will come along with him as he ventures out into the community to find homeless men and women that need help creating their own online identities. With the money, he would also purchase cards and a portable laminator to print their account information so that they can remember usernames and passwords.

“We can help them set up a Gmail account, and then they can save their documents in Google Drive,” he said. “It works for personal photos too. There are a lot of things we take for granted about having safe storage.”

After the original set-up, the men and women can access these accounts on computers at public libraries or by using smart phones provided by services like SmartLink and Assurance Wireless, both of which offer free cell phones and minutes to eligible customers.

“This opens up the door to an existing technology that only certain populations have the resources to take advantage of,” he said.

According to Shirley Roseman, a volunteer at Wild Iris bookstore and UF’s LGBT Affairs who helps coordinate Wild Iris’ Free Store, a biweekly event that provides free clothing, books and other resources, many low-income men and women are limited when applying for jobs due to a lack of basic items like the correct clothing for interviews.

Without these everyday things that those who come from privilege often take for granted, low-income populations get stuck in a sick cycle: Without certain clothing or technology, they can’t get a job. Without a job, they don’t have the money for certain clothing or technology.

Before Watson was paving the road for the integration of cloud-based technology in social services, he was a counselor at Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, a counseling center that often works with people who are or have been homeless. Here he began to see a need in the community for access to basic human necessities.

“Therapy works,” he said. “But therapy doesn’t work if a person is just trying to survive.”

Now, Watson coordinates the Homeless Disability Program at Three Rivers Legal Services, which has officially backed his project, making all donations to the GoFundMe tax deductible. He said his job involves spending a great deal of time outside, on the streets or shelters, talking with people about what their needs are.

With the Homeless Disability Program, he focuses on those who live with disabilities. Watson also offers pro-bono legal services such as advocating for them and helping apply for benefits.

“Lots of people aren’t aware of what benefits they qualify for,” he said. “Or, if they do, the application process isn’t something they are able to navigate on their own.”

According to Watson, the process isn’t easy. To apply for Medicaid, you need access to your medical records. This can be nearly impossible for someone who doesn’t have health insurance or has moved around a lot. He said he found that usually the older folks he worked with wouldn’t have an email address to easily request these documents.

“Helping someone sign up for an email address was so simple and opened so many doors,” he said. “You could apply for jobs. You could communicate with your family. It was just so easy.”

“Therapy works,” he said. “But therapy doesn’t work if a person is just trying to survive.”

Another common problem when applying for benefits from the state was a lack of identification. In the homeless community, he said, it is common to not have a copy of your birth certificate or a drivers license.

“They’re hard to hold onto for a lot of reasons,” he said. “Theft, weather, just living outside stuff.”

Gainesville Police Department provides temporary identification cards that shelters like St. Francis House and Grace Marketplace will accept. Unfortunately, these cards are made of paper and are susceptible to the same wears and tears as other forms of identification. They also are not accepted when applying for state benefit programs.

“Having access to resources to apply for identification is much bigger deal than people realize,” Theresa Lowe, executive director of Grace Marketplace, said. “Not only are drivers licenses expensive, but actually getting one can be complicated.”

Watson knew that proper identification was both the problem and the solution for many individuals. It was the key to resources that would greatly impact their lives, but they were hard to hold on to and sometimes even harder to get ahold of. Often, he said, the system would send him in circles.

“I was working with someone who was from out of state,” he said. “Where they were from, you couldn’t request a copy of your birth certificate without an ID card. In Florida, you can’t get an ID card without your original birth certificate.”

But Watson said this person had a copy of an ID, which the out-of-state agency said they would accept. In this situation, Mark realized a simple solution to a problem he encountered so often.

“Cloud-based technology is free,” he said. “It’s not even that new.”

Watson saw an easy solution when he realized that not all populations were taking advantage of a free and easy-to-access resource. He said that because of stigma, people often don’t think of the homeless when they look to innovate.

And language often perpetuates stigma. For example, Watson said he prefers people-centric language when referring to the unhoused community.

“They’re not homeless; they have a home,” he said. “When you go out to a tent city, it’s pretty impressive to see when someone can make something out of nothing.”