Strangely enough, initially I used Twitter to follow my favorite musician Kyle Cook, I didn't care if anyone was listening or 'following' me. Then a girl in Texas who also follows Kyle started following me.... she was shocked that I was homeless, people aren't used to the†21st Century Homeless People, who have laptops and mobiles and even money in the bank sometimes!! We've become friends across the pond and her acceptance of me gave me the confidence to put myself out there, and people started following me. Amongst other peak bodies offering help, I got an email from Michael Coffey (CEO Youth Homelessness Assoc) who is also on the council to advise the NSW Premier on reducing homelessness. Funny thing is I'm still homeless. I thought these people were there to help??
So often, elements of development work to silence the minorities in our communities. Be it poverty, oppression, circumstance, or decision, I want to know... It's time to pull the tape off the mouths of those who truly understand struggle in America, and hand them the microphone of social media.
Nothing is more powerful than our stories. Whether it's story told in pictures, or story told in words, stories change people. Social media and blogs are how and where we tell our stories. Stories connect us to the world. No matter how rich, how poor, how young, how powerful or how weak, stories change us. Homeless people have one story - or so people think. No one bothers to stop and ask the homeless for their story or even expects to see a story other than, "I'm broke, addicted, mentally ill, angry, hurt and dangerous." It's up to you to add to, or go beyond that negative story. If you ever wanted the keys to life, to possibility, to freedom, social media and a blog are those keys. Get them. Use them. They can change your world.
Before we got involved in social media, we felt no one cared we were homeless. I got mad and went to Twitter just to vent my frustrations. We soon met people, some homeless and some not, who all seemed to have one thing in common: they did care. For the first time in months, I felt we had a voice. This was a huge boost. Through Twitter, one person set up food being delivered to us. Another asked what I needed the most (at the time, denture glue for my wife); four days later, it was here. Again through Twitter, we found a friend who made a flyer for us asking people if they had work, which has led to one job so far. I believe everyone can benefit from social media, and we try to help others in our area connect and have a voice too.
Three years ago I became homeless. I lost my house, my past and my dreams.
Along with that my identity was lost, who was I and what was my purpose in this life.
In September 2008 I poured out my heart onto a blog I started on a whim, not because I expected anyone to read it but to document the raw pain that I felt inside.
Suddenly from all over the world, with no geographical restrictions or barriers people began to speak to me like the human being I once was. An uninhibited conversation, with strangers consoling, encouraging and advising me and above all understanding me.
I began having a conversation with the rest of the world and in return they helped me find my voice.
As the online community around me got bigger, as I blogged and tweeted my very innermost secrets, I began to realize that I was not unique in my situation, people were asking me for advice and sharing their stories about living on the outskirts of society, the shame and helplessness they had experienced like me. This changed my perception and understanding about the epidemic of homelessness and it gave me the purpose that I had been looking for.
I first began blogging in response to a small review of a documentary I had been interviewed for. Afterward - although I had absolutely no writing experience whatsoever - I discovered that it was an ideal way for venting my frustration at being ignored by the rest of the community because I was experiencing homelessness.
Over time, as the blog evolved on it's own, I began receiving comments and emails from folks who genuinely cared about helping the homeless. Some of those emails have given birth to some of my most cherished friendships.
Social media like Twitter, Facebook and WordPress, can help homeless in a number of different ways. For me it helps me vent, rant and talk about the problems I face. It also helps me connect with others who are in the same boat. Social media provides a support network for those more comfortable behind a keyboard, but tends to clam up in person. Social media also helps connect those who are homeless with people who are in position to help those in need. It helps connect the homeless with potential employers, counselors and shelters. Without social media, I feel I would be out here with no one to talk to. Things can get real depressing real quick, so I use my online resources to get support from those who know what Iím going through. So if you would like to chat and ask me questions on the effects of social media, you be able to find me on Twitter.com as @cardboardblog. There are tons of other people using social media to spread awareness as well. So please feel free to ask me anything you like. Without social media I would feel like a complete outcast of society.