Someday, when I meet Jack Dorsey for the first time, the very first words out of my mouth will be “thank you for saving my life and helping me to help others”! I then want to ask Jack if he ever imagined Twitter being used to help fight homelessness. A few years back I was honored to be asked to speak at Twitter Headquarters, and the very first words out of my mouth were “thank you for saving my life and helping me to help others”! The film crew working on @home were there to capture the moment and a part of that experience is in the movie.
You might think it’s funny that I thank a social media company for saving my life, but I genuinely believe that if it wasn’t for Twitter – I’d be back on the streets – or worse! For those of you that don’t know I started my work of using social media to fight poverty and homelessness right around 19 months of unemployment and without income. My house was being foreclosed on and I could not find work anywhere. It was a very dark time in my life. At first, this all just gave me purpose and a reason to get up in the morning. Today, Invisible People has had far more impact than all of the government and nonprofit awareness campaigns combined!
The reason I want to ask Jack if he thought Twitter would be used to fight homelessness is because – I never imagined that social media could help a homeless person get into housing! That’s like INSANE! But the truth is: social media helps fight homelessness in many ways including helping people find housing!
When I first started all this, a young homeless woman in Chicago chased me down. I wish I could tell you I found her, but the truth is Ann Marie found me. I was visiting Chicago and I started to get tweets from @padschicago. As far as I knew, she was the first homeless person using Twitter. I started to @ reply her I wanted to meet , yet no response back. I kept on trying and trying until it hit me: Ann Marie may not have computer access and I’ll just have to wait for her to respond on her time. It was that moment that I learned, when dealing with people who are still experiencing homelessness, I must always view the world through their eyes. As a case manager I have always tried looking from the other person’s perspective, but it didn’t occur to me the challenges homeless people face when using social media until I met @padschicago. I’ll never forget Ann Marie, who was sleeping in an alley at the time, told me when she went to bed she never felt alone because all of us on Twitter were right there with her. By the way, Ann Marie found housing because of Twitter and has been off the streets for a few years now!
WE CAN END HOMELESSNESS!
I really believe we can end homelessness. I would not be in a game we cannot win. That would be stupid! Truth is, these video clips prove it. We have models and strategies that are proven to end homelessness. We just need policy changes and real community support to make change happen, which is where you come in, and why you need to support @Home Campaign.
I was driving through South Dakota when I saw a tweet by @LostAwareness. I tweet back asking her for her story and found out she was about to be homeless. All via Twitter, I was able to help her find the support she needed. A month or so later I returned to Los Angeles and met Rd for the first time. Luckily, the film crew working on @home were there to capture the moment too. Please watch this short video showing the moment I first met Rd and then a few months later Rd signing a lease to her new apartment. Special thanks to our good friend Neil Donovan from the National Coalition for the Homeless for believing in our work.