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Helping the Homeless through Social Media

blog.suntimes.com
We’ve spoken before about people finding progressive ways to use internet technology to help the homeless. Like it or lump it, the best way to reach people in the Western world tends to be online and finding ways to gear that towards aid for the less fortunate is imperative. Social media has been used to track down missing people, help earthquake victims, raise millions of dollars and awareness through various means, from makeup to buckets of ice.

Now in Washington DC, it’s being used to help the homeless. Miriam’s Kitchen is one of numerous soup kitchens spread throughout the city. Like the others it collects food donations from various sources, is staffed largely by volunteers and sets out to provide food and shelter for the people who need it the most. Their pages on Facebook and Twitter have amassed thousands of followers and it’s active every day, publicising new donations, new volunteer staff, putting up albums of busy/successful evenings and promoting fundraising efforts.

They did have something of a leg up, a visit by Michelle Obama boosted their popularity distinctly, but they’re far from the only charitable service to have recognised the power of social media. Earlier this year a media company based out of San Francisco called NearShot set up a stand for food and drink for the homeless in the city. They also asked the people they served if they would like to record a video message to send out to friends and family, most agreed. The videos were shared through the locally based Montoursville Police Department’s Facebook page and within hours dozens of homeless people were being recognised by their nearest and dearest. The same group ran a similar initiative to give GoPro cameras to homeless people, such that they could document their lives in order to further raise awareness (as well as provide them with a practical way to broadcast them).

nearshot.com
Sometimes similar things happen completely inadvertently, such as the man who earned spare change by demonstrating his ‘golden radio voice’ to passing drivers. Footage of him doing so blew up on social media and within a month he had a new job, a home and reunited with his mother. In many cases the difficulties faced by homeless people need only be broadcast in order to get them the help they really need. Shelter from the Storm in Islington ran a reasonably successful awareness campaign under #Bedless which tasked people to photograph themselves sleeping (or pretending to sleep) in unusual places, then pledging to donate to the shelter charity.

homelessfa.org
Finally, and perhaps most interestingly of all, you have the Homeless FA. It is exactly as it sounds, a scheme to get the homeless of London better equipped to get back out and face the working world, through football. All the players train together, play together and learn together and the scheme does not discriminate between age or gender, everyone is on equal footing. Their social media pages promote the work as much as you might expect, but beyond that the players are also profiled and progress reports are regularly posted, as well as events and whatever else.


This is just the tip of the iceberg though; new awareness campaigns and schemes are cropping up all the time with varying levels of success, but social media is practically a blank canvas, anything goes. The key strength of it is that awareness is by and large more useful than charitable hand outs, the more people know about a cause, the more people are likely to get involved and as shallow as it is to treat charity work as any kind of trend, it’s effective. Hopefully we’ll see more of this kind of thing in the near future. 

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Helping the Homeless through Social Media Reviewed by Callum Davies on Sunday, May 10, 2015 Rating: 5

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