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Geeking Our Way to a Better World

Posted Jan 07 2009 6:28pm

Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.

-Mother Teresa

Thinking more about the homeless issue and how to make an impact. Steve Hargadon and I have been throwing ideas around for awhile now. I plan to Skype him into my two workshops tomorrow at Preparing for Walking Home Together: Steps to a Practical Approach- NC's Conference on Homelessness to talk about using his Public Web Stations idea for setting up free Public Access computer stations for next to nothing with very minimal upkeep. Wouldn't it be cool to create immediate, affordable, maintenance free access for the homeless. Steve has figured a way to do it.  

Web 2.0 and its Potential for Breaking Generational Poverty
When I speak at conferences about homelessness one of the things I emphasize is the potential of the Web for helping enable those who need it most. There are lots of great examples of the homeless who are starting to realize the potential for using these tools as a way of climbing out. Now we just need to get homeless service providers and those of us interested in helping on board and connected.

The Role of Libraries?
Take a look at this interesting article,

Steve shared with me about how librarians fit into the solution. If we can get librarians to offer technology instruction to their homeless clients what doors would that open? I always recommend getting an email address (an address that never changes) by using free computers in the library to the homeless Moms with which I talk.

Maybe we could set up labs of Internet ready machines using Steve's CD in libraries and offer classes for the homeless to improve their job marketability by teaching them a valuable skill set, or offer online mentors (teachers) willing to help homeless kids with homework and nurturing, and possibly help the homeless get connected to services and people that can make a difference in their circumstance. For taking the computer class, libraries could give away a free USB drive to make any files they create portable.

Wouldn't a Craig's List for the homeless be cool?I bet you--like me--have tons of portable technologies to donate that would be perfect for the homeless and others trapped in poverty.

Cell Phones for the Homeless
One of the things that perpetuates the cycle of homelessness is not being contactable. How is someone going to call you back about a job application? How about if we got a grant to provide cell phones and prepaid cards for the homeless? And with the newer 3G cell phones that could even be the answer to connectivity! Because of their mobile nature, the homeless like things that are small and portable. Everything needs to be easily moved around, everything needs to fit into a backpack. With cell phones going for $30-$50 and the way we all upgrade continously there has to be a way to recycle older phones for the homeless. Recharging wouldn't be a problem as there are plenty of places to plug in to recharge.

Invitation to be Creative

I want to invite service users, service providers, grass roots organizations, and other interested stakeholders who work or care about marginalized groups such as the homeless who regard themselves as tech savvy and web 2.0 experts to help me brainstorm Internet/communication based outreach/interventions.

I hope you will take a moment to share your ideas here or on your blogs and then link them to here. If there are enough of us-- maybe we could create a social network community on Ning and start launching some of these ideas? I belong to the DDN but even there it seems to be lots of individuals doing their thing and then sharing what they have done. What if we figured out a thing or two that really worked and did it together? Please leave me a comment here if you are interested in collaborating and please spread the word to see if others would be interested. So-- please share.. what ideas do you have? I was writing this a family member came in and said I have an idea. The military has huge trucks that do laundry. They pull into an area where military are camped without washing facilities and do large amounts of laundry very quickly. Why couldnt they make themselves available to shelters and shanty towns? Or why couldnt laundry mats get tax credits for allowing people experiencing poverty to do their laundry for free?

Other Ideas and Sites is a search engine dedicated to helping homeless find resources created by a former homeless guy.

Austin Free-Net has a cool idea. Austin Free-Net tries to involve computers in the everyday lives of high poverty citizens. Through showing them how to look up bus schedules, use email or even research potential employers, Free-Net integrates the Web into their lives." Austin Free-Net is attempting to arrange classes on using the Web and software while people wait in line each week at the food pantry in hopes that more disadvantaged members of society will get online.

Net Squared a site about remixing the web for social change.

Laptops for the Homeless

Homeless Bloggers
The Homeless Guy
Wandering Scribe


National Coalition for the Homeless
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
Project Hope
National Alliance to End Homelessness

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