June 16, 2009

National Poverty News Roundup for 16 June

Tis the season, apparently, to wax poetic about the power of online social networking tools to promote social change. While it probably a good idea to curb our enthusiasm a bit, since the global coverage of social media is somewhat spotty at best, it remains the case that activists in well-connected regions can certainly take advantage of tools like Facebook and Twitter to get the word out. The U.S. government certainly thinks so; among the results of this increased emphasis on transparency and openness, both by government and civic watchdog groups, are two new Facebook apps that you can use to keep tabs on your elected representatives.

Last week we mentioned the increasing numbers of wired-but-homeless people in certain regions of the United States. This week, consider this story about a D.C. homeless advocate -- himself homeless -- who uses online networking tools to overcome the disadvantages of his lack of a permanent place to live, and also a new program in New York City that allows a small number of homeless to attend St. Johns University -- and provides them with "the books, the laptops, the notebooks, the pens, the whole thing." But in this techno-enthusiasm, let's not overlook the continuing relevance of old-school media like public radio, which remains a source of good first-person accounts and inspiring stories like this audio diary of a recently-graduated homeless high school student, and let's also remember the tried and true lessons of community organizing revolving around telling stories, regardless of the medium in which those stories are told.

Tis also the season, of course, for the end of the public school year, which increases demand on food banks as school-aged kids no longer benefit from free and reduced lunch programs. Michael Moore's public theatrical stunt, in which a collection is taken up for a fictional charity called "Save Our C.E.O.s" with the money actually going to local food banks, obviously doesn't raise much money, but maybe it and the film it promotes will raise some more awareness?

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