HomelessnessThe Race to End Homelessness

Hashtag: #EndingHomelessness

By May 23, 2014 2 Comments

You won’t find out what I’ve done today by checking my facebook statuses. I’m comfortable with social media, but I try not to get too comfortable. No “woke up, ate eggs, went to work, looks like it might rain” information from me. I’m on the quieter side – both in real life and when it comes to posting what I’m thinking about, which is perhaps why I struggle when I see my friends and colleagues use their twitter feeds as a platform for social advocacy.

As #Bringbackourgirls, the hashtag protesting the kidnapping of more than two hundred girls in Nigeria, exploded this past week, I wondered if I should be tweeting the same thing. I read up on this travesty, and felt outraged at this human rights violation, but I struggled to connect how my tweeting – even with a hashtag used by hundreds of thousands of other users – might lead to justice half a world away.

This week, Twitter made an announcement that really connected the dots for me, and showed how a platform made up of 140 characters can make a difference online and off. The microblogging giant announced plans to open and operate a tech center for individuals experiencing homelessness in the San Francisco area. Computers are increasingly relevant to the job market, both in finding available job opportunities and in possessing basic computer skills, but poverty creates a “digital divide,” and people from lower income backgrounds have less access to computers as they grow up, making the internet a scary place.  The space, called the Twitter Neighborhood Nest, will be open to individuals as well as families, with tech skills offered to any age group. For adults, this will include computer literacy as well as job searching skills.

Twitter is the place for the newest information, where the news is splayed across your screen in tiny snippets. So it is perhaps somewhat surprising that the platform for all things instant is partnering with a service organization that is more than a century old. Compass Family Services will work with Twitter to create the new technology center, as the nonprofit currently coordinates services for more than 3,500 individuals experiencing or on the brink of homelessness.

This partnership is an excellent move, one that gives The Twitter Neighborhood Nest a strong foundation. This seems to be much more than a one-time donation or a publicity move, because Twitter has sought input from people who know the demographic they hope to serve. Partnerships – especially the unlikely ones – are the key to having enough knowledge and resources to overcome the digital divide and overcome homelessness.


Author Jasmine Arnold

Jasmine Arnold works at the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center, a shelter for Baltimorians experiencing homelessness. She is a Rhode Islander relocated to Baltimore by way of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she studied Sociology and Economics. Moving between states sparked an interest in comparing not only the local charms of each new place, but in understanding how cities tackle difficult social issues.

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