Homeless and Digital

The Wall Street Journal ran a story on 30 May, titled On the Street and On Facebook: The Homeless Stay Wired.

From the article:

Shelter attendants say the number of laptop-toting overnight visitors, while small, is growing. SF Homeless, a two-year-old Internet forum, has 140 members. It posts schedules for public-housing meetings and news from similar groups in New Mexico, Arizona and Connecticut. And it has a blog with online polls about shelter life.

The article didn’t link to the “SF Homeless” forum, but I did find this site, which is actually a wiki. If anyone can find the forum of which they speak, please leave a link in the comments.

Robert Livingston, 49, has carried his Asus netbook everywhere since losing his apartment in December. A meticulous man who spends some of his $59 monthly welfare check on haircuts, Mr. Livingston says he quit a security-guard job late last year, then couldn’t find another when the economy tanked.

When he realized he would be homeless, Mr. Livingston bought a sturdy backpack to store his gear, a padlock for his footlocker at the shelter and a $25 annual premium Flickr account to display the digital photos he takes.

It’s amazing to me that he sprung for the $25 Flickr account. I wonder what he’s photographing, and whether he’s doing something interesting with them; the article doesn’t say.

Livingston surprised me with a poignant perspective, sharing:

… his computer helps him feel more connected and human. “It’s frightening to be homeless,” he says. “When I’m on here, I’m equal to everybody else.”

The article is peppered with vignettes of various personalities from other members of the American homeless population, as well as social services professionals involved in providing Internet access and computer training in shelters, since many housing and job applications must be submitted online.