ideas, innovations and apps for social work in the age of smartphones and social media
BY MARGARET ROCK, mobiledia.com
People commiserate on social media, but the homeless use Facebook, Twitter and even email to maintain life-saving connections.
Millions turn to Facebook to post the upset of their days and the tumult in their personal relationships. In return, they get support and advice from friends and others who can relate. But to the homeless, a simple cell phone can be a vital link to support groups, employment and housing opportunities, and is a way to build a community out of the isolation, ruin and despair that accompanies homelessness.
Why a Mobile Connection?
A homeless person and a smartphone may seem an unlikely combination, but mobile devices are far from being a tool for recreation or a status symbol. Mobile access can enable them to come out of the shadows, drawing attention to their plight and securing valuable services.
When it comes to making difficult economic choices, cell phones are the last refuge, likely because mobile phones are relatively easy to get, especially when compared to a landline, car, house or job. And connections enabled by mobile devices can give disenfranchised populations a sense of community while they work to rebuild. A cell phone offers a cheap way to communicate, and even a very basic Internet access can connect them to a wealth of information and resources. On a larger scale, a mobile device is a tether between a homeless person and the larger fabric of society, keeping them from falling into the pale and completely in the margins.
The University of Dayton’s Art Jipson documented how the homeless are turning to social media and finding equality, dignity and a way to improve their situation.
Jipson found social media can be a place for homeless people to interact without being judged. As one person said, “No one on the ‘net cares if I didn’t get a shower yesterday or smell some.”
The associate sociology professor’s findings add a new dimension to the common perception of social media sites like Facebook.
“People think of Facebook as this billion-dollar entity with stock offerings that sells gobs of advertising,” Jipson said. “But, on Facebook, the ‘least of our brothers,’ as it says in the Bible, have equal access to all of Facebook’s offerings and establish a sense of belonging that is based on more than possessions.”
Read the whole article at How Smartphones Throw the Homeless a Lifeline – Mobiledia.