September 23, 2009

Revealing the Invisible People: Homelessness and Social Media

[Today we welcome Liz Whitehurst, our new intern! —ed]

Coreen from on Vimeo.

The very best summer of my life was spent working at a drop-in center for homeless women. Amid the chaos (serving coffee, baking brownies, answering the door, etc) I would sit down with one of the regulars and listen to her stories. They were sometimes fascinating, often discouraging or even horrifying, but each story gave me insight into the lived experience of poverty.

What I love about Mark Horvath's Invisible People project is that it captures stories like these and brings them to millions. What's more, it allows the homeless people he meets on his travels across the country to speak for themselves.

Each person's story is unique, and the videos capture some of their complexity and common humanity. Some people look embarrassed in front of the camera, while others seem just happy to be talking to someone. Anger, fear, gratitude, and longing are all captured in their faces and words.

Take Juan in St. Petersburg for example. When asked to describe what homelessness is like, he simply says "Well, it really sucks. It's hard." Take Coreen in Nashville, who fled an abusive partner. When asked to describe what homelessness is like, she says "It's scary, but it's better than what I was in." And then there's Walter in Chicago who describes his daily experience as part of something bigger: "Even if you are homeless and you have nothing, if you have a purpose, you have all that you need."

Annemarie's story stood out to me because it adds to the ongoing conversation on this blog about the digital divide that exists in communities that lack internet access. Annemarie uses Twitter to connect with friends and social service agencies. Although her access to the internet isn't consistent, she can use twitter via her cell phone: "It's great for venting. Sometimes I just need to get something out to someone and a million people can hear it. It's good to know I'm not the only one who experiences these problems."

And through Twitter, Annemarie met Horvath – and her voice has been amplified even farther. I’m listening still.

So I'm on the lookout for more online places where homeless men and women are speaking out. Leave a comment or tweet if you have a suggestion.

—Liz Whitehurst

1 comment:

ninjaclectic said...

Hi Liz, are you tweeting from @breadforthecity?