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Internet Giving Homeless a Home 261

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the long-reach-on-that-outreach dept.
Wired is reporting that many individuals currently without permanent housing still manage to stay connected via a cellphone, laptop, or some other gadget. Many homeless have email addresses and find that it offers them a way to get their foot back in the door of 'normal' society. From the article: "Hellerich slept on benches but she frequented a women's shelter with a cluster of internet-connected computers used mostly by the children who arrived at the safe house with their mothers. She started blogging and conducting a business. As an independent internet marketer, she was able to maintain bank accounts, nurse existing client connections and forge new business relationships. The business brought in only about $100 a month, but that was enough to help get her life back on track."
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Internet Giving Homeless a Home

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Monday June 26, 2006 @07:36AM (#15604461) Homepage Journal
    Wake up scuttle, you can't run a story like this without linking to thinkgeek!

    There's no place like 127.0.0.1 [thinkgeek.com]

    In all seriousness, there are many homeless folks in this world not all of them have the opportunity to get back on their feet.

    Most homeless people aren't there by choice and there are lots of folks who are just 1 pay check away from joining them, spare a thought when your walking around town and if you have some change give generously.
    • by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Monday June 26, 2006 @07:54AM (#15604515)

      Most homeless people aren't there by choice and there are lots of folks who are just 1 pay check away from joining them, spare a thought when your walking around town and if you have some change give generously.

      Better yet, vote AGAINST the incumbent fools running this temporarily godforsaken country. They just implemented the biggest cut yet on federal housing grants (HUD) here in my county in Pennsylvania. In the short term, this means that elderly folks in public housing who used to have a nurse/social worker visit them and help them once or twice a week, are SOL. Do you know how much it helps an elderly person trying to stay independent, to have a nurse or a social worker come in once a week?! It helps a lot. I know this from personal experience.

      Well, we gotta cut the "death tax". Onward and upward.

      Goodbye and good riddance, Senator Santorum and your filthy ilk. I can't wait until this fall when we kick your asses out.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:08AM (#15604577)
        As we all know, poor people [shelleytherepublican.com] are a huge problem in our great nation, therefore, they must be eliminated.

        Maybe you're even worse than a Democ-rat - you might even be a Euro-hippy. Stop polluting our minds with your socialist nonsense like science [shelleytherepublican.com] or worse, "Linux" [shelleytherepublican.com] - we all know the true history [shelleytherepublican.com].

        Fortunately, I have an idea to solve these problems. I call it A Modest Proposal:

        What do we have an excess of in the USA? That's right - LIBERALS. These tend to be exactly the poor homeless people who can't afford to buy Operating Systems like Microsoft Genuine Advantage Windows, and must make do with the inferior communist alternatives. Remember, these are the people who actually OPPOSE the war on terror in Iraq, even after September 11 showed how evil Saddam Hussein was!

        Also, we import much of our oil from disgusting foreigners (like Venezualans, who we must liberate soon BTW). Why don't we grind up the liberal hobos who lower valuable property prices in our neighborhoods, and use the oil from their bodies to power up our SUVs?

        This way everyone wins.

        What do you think, slashdot.org?
      • Goodbye and good riddance, Senator Santorum and your filthy ilk. I can't wait until this fall when we kick your asses out.

        Prepare for disappointment.

        LK
    • by PixelPirate (984935) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:11AM (#15604586)
      While I agree with your sentiment, I must respectively disagree. I worked in one of the largest homeless shelters in the city in which I live and I'll give you a couple of snapshots.

      Many of the clients (as they were referred to as) often faced addictions and/or mental issues. Often times, living on the street was a matter of their choice -- they didn't trust anyone enough to follow them into a building. Likewise, when people say "give a bit of spare change", this is often the worst advice that can be given as much of that money will go directly into feeding their addiction. It is far better to offer to buy them a coffee, or recommend them to a shelter. Of course, I live in Canada, so it may very well be different in the United States of America...


      -PixelPirate
      • by Lord Kano (13027) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:23AM (#15604636) Homepage Journal
        I've given to the homeless. When things are going especially well for me, I'll give more. I heard an idea that I think is fantastic. Some people by gift certificates for restaurants and when a homeless person asks for "money for food" they give the gift certificates. Someone who really just wants to eat with be greatful. Someone who was planning on buying a bottle of hooch, will not be able to get over on you.

        LK
        • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:57AM (#15604827) Homepage
          That's great advice, just make sure you pick restaurants that won't have problems accepting homeless people as patrons. You'll probably be better off doing this, as you'll get more bang for your buck. This is also why you're better off giving money/provisions to your local food bank or soup kitchen. They have direct access to the people who need it, and they make sure it isn't being spent on alcohol or drugs. It also ensures that money goes to people who need it. I heard a story about a woman who begged on the streets of New York, and then drove home in her lincoln town car at the end of the day. She was making $500 a day just begging on the streets. It was on a prominent news show, I think 20/20 or dateline, So I tend to believe it.
          • There is a very strong tendency to persecute the masses of homeless / desperate people in our cities based upon a few (often unsubstantiated) stories of malfeasance.

            That said, there is also an important principal which should not be overlooked here; there are good and bad ways to deal with institutional failures of society.

            In the case of homeless persons, there are really only a few things one can do which truly help people. Here's what you can do to help:

            1. Don't give anyone on the street anything directl
        • until they sell it at a fraction of face value to some black marketeer.
        • Some people by gift certificates for restaurants and when a homeless person asks for "money for food" they give the gift certificates. Someone who really just wants to eat with be greatful. Someone who was planning on buying a bottle of hooch, will not be able to get over on you.

          Unless they accept the gift certificate from you, then resell it to someone else for half of its face value, and use the cash to buy a bottle of hooch.

          What kinds of restaurants are these certificates for, anyway? I'd imagine fine d
      • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:24AM (#15604640) Homepage Journal
        I live in England and I agree with your coffee/advice line.
        Whenever I have some time (just meandering around shopping etc) I will stop and talk to some of the folks and most are happy to sit and have a cuppa (sometimes its the first hot thing they have had all day).

        In England we have a magazine called The Big Issue [bigissue.com] which is sold by agents who are homeless or at risk of being.
        They purchase the magazine at wholesale price (60p) and sell to the public keeping the difference.

        I usually pay £2 per issue (even though the cover price is £1.40) purely out of respect for them getting of their arses and doing something to solve the problem.

        I am less tolerant towards outright begging.
      • Likewise, when people say "give a bit of spare change", this is often the worst advice that can be given as much of that money will go directly into feeding their addiction.

        Apparently you don't have to park in the part of town where they'll smash your car windows for a nickle lying on your seat.

        I'd gladly just give them the nickles to save a few hundred bucks worth of glass a year.

        That said, have you ever been stuck for cash yourself? It doesn't take much, start with some grubby clothes and need of a shower
        • "That said, have you ever been stuck for cash yourself? It doesn't take much, start with some grubby clothes and need of a shower, say, thanks to some house cleaning your in the middle of; then park in the wrong place for few couple minutes to perform a quick drop off errand, come back and find your car towed with your wallet & cellphone inside --- and instantly you can become reduced to begging for quarters to make a phone call, complete with a 'lame sob story' about how you just need bus fare to get

        • Apparently you don't have to park in the part of town where they'll smash your car windows for a nickle lying on your seat.

          I save my change so I can afford not to live in that part of town.

      • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:00AM (#15605205)

        Likewise, when people say "give a bit of spare change", this is often the worst advice that can be given as much of that money will go directly into feeding their addiction. It is far better to offer to buy them a coffee, or recommend them to a shelter.

        Agreed. Donate the money to a shelter if you want it to help them get into a better situation for the long term. Now I have given money to homeless, but only when they are honest. I know the chances are anything I give them will be going to booze or drugs, so if someone asks for money for booze, I'm willing to share, now and again. Mostly though, there are better ways to help out.

        Of course, I live in Canada, so it may very well be different in the United States of America.

        For the most part things in the US are the same. The one real difference is health care. Half of all homeless people in the US are there because they got sick, couldn't go to work, lost their job, and then their home. Most personal bankruptcies happen for the same reason, but with someone with enough savvy or good advice to use the system to cut their losses and try again. Among the homeless, a lot of them have serious medical issues and no one will hire them because it will cost their insurance program too much. Drugs are also significantly more expensive here, which exacerbates the problem.

      • You are 100% correct.

        I've also had the bizarre experience of offering food or cigarettes (a friend was quitting and was throwing them out) to homeless people only to have them regected because they were the wrong brand or they didn't like that kind of food. I guess they aren't THAT desperate if they can be choosy.
      • by rark (15224)
        I've been homeless in the U.S. Come to think of it, I thought I pioneered the pager/internet (and later cell phone) setup back in 2000 and then again in 2002, but my ideas were probably not all that original. I would guess that most intelligent and technology savvy folks would come up with similar ideas in similar situations.

        That said, homeless shelters in this country are a joke. I've come to the conclusion that for most homeless people they are worse than the alternative except during extreme inclement we
    • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:17AM (#15604606) Journal
      Yeah, this article is pretty misleading, containing a handful of anecdotes while there are millions of homeless people worldwide, and hundreds of thousands in the US (one count [usatoday.com] is at over 700,000. I find it hard to believe that the majority of those people have email addresses that they use on a regular basis to improve their lives to any significant degree. I find it hard to believe that the majority of them have laptops or use their cell phones to browse the web. The article repeatedly uses the word "many", but doesn't tell us what numbers they mean by "many".
      • article is pretty misleading, containing a handful of anecdotes while there are millions of homeless people worldwide

        Yeah, kudos to Wired for being our new media saviors. There's nothing like their accurate, principled, morally driven "journalism".

      • The article repeatedly uses the word "many", but doesn't tell us what numbers they mean by "many".

        More than three.

        Directions to a shelter is being helpful. Giving a panhandler cash usually is not.

        If you want to give, donate to a charity that takes care of the homeless.
      • I've known a fair number of homeless people in my lifetime. To my knowledge, only one of them had an E-mail address. He used to check it in the public library. Sadly, he was the sort that didn't really want to get back on his feet. He had jobs every so often, but he wouldn't work hard, and he'd act like he was better than everyone else, so he'd get fired. It's too bad, he was nice guy and very intelligent. Last time I saw him, he was living in a little boat housing on the property of someone I know.
        • There are, in my estimation at least 3 types of homeless people.
          1) A person via circumstances who is homeless against their will. E.g. a person laid off or loses a house and a job after racking up med. bills. These folks need and deserve all the help we can give them.

          2) A person who may be mentally ill or deficient and so has a hard time keeping jobs, not getting kicked out of apartments etc. These people too should be given as much help as is ethically possible.

          3) People who just do not want a part of 'nor
    • I never give money directly to panhandlers. The panhandlers I routinely run across are either able to work and choose not to (I'll talk to these and ask about their situation - for example, one woman said her family was living in a hotel because their house burned down; another woman said she couldn't work because she had a "high risk" pregnancy, even though she wasn't showing at 6 months and could stand on the median for 8 hours a day holding a sign) or are so deep into the bottle (or pipe or needle) that
    • In all seriousness, there are many homeless folks in this world not all of them have the opportunity to get back on their feet.

      No, but the Internet gives more of them an opportunity they previously didn't have, and that's a good thing.

      Also, by recognizing this possibility, people who work with the homeless can present them additional options.
    • Many are also homeless due to mental illness. Everyone in the 70's cried out against state mental hospitals because of the poor conditions in them so they closed them. The problem is that the patients didn't go away and they lost touch with them. They didn't get the medications they needed anymore (which were supposed to be a substitute for the hospitals).

      A significant number I'm sure are homeless by choice. They will tell you that they enjoy not being responsible to anyone or anything. They get plenty
  • hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SlamMan (221834) <`squigit' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday June 26, 2006 @07:37AM (#15604466)
    independent internet marketer? Spammer?
  • wait (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PunkOfLinux (870955)
    Instead of cell phones and laptops... couldn't that money be put towards better things, like... I dunno... food
    • Re:wait (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Looke (260398) on Monday June 26, 2006 @07:46AM (#15604487)
      What's the saying ... "Give a man a fish, and you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime." We're talking about getting a life back on track here.
      • Re:wait (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Joebert (946227)
        I think it's "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, & you just traded a paying customer for a competitor"
      • Re:wait (Score:2, Redundant)

        by arr28 (739468)
        What's the saying ... "Give a man a fish, and you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime."
        I thought it was... "Make a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for a day. Set a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life!"
      • There is a slashdotter (posts from whom I have not seen in about 16 months...) with the following .sig:

        "Give a man a fish, he owes you a fish. Teach a man to fish, you just gave your monopoly on the fisheries".
      • Hey, the impoverished throughout the world are coming up with all kinds of ways [cnn.com] to make money off the internet. In a virtual world where time and dedication are two of the greatest commodities, and physical commodities are no so important, there is no reason why the poor can't make some money too (it's just a lot harder to get into the big numbers without having capital or resorting to fraud).

        -Eric

      • This is the USA. While many people will tell you this, as this is how it is in the Bible. However, the parable they live by is slightly different:

        Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and you destroy your monopoly on fishing.
    • Re:wait (Score:3, Insightful)

      In the UK lots of homless people sell a magazine called the Big issue as a method of making some money.. I am not sure if this is something which is done in the states - but they buy the magazines at say 25 pence each and sell then for £1 allowing them to make 75p per magazine sold - this is done to help them get back up and running again. Some of these people though don't look like they need to be selling the magazines - there is a guy who sells this magazine near my office who is always decked out
      • n the UK lots of homless people sell a magazine called the Big issue as a method of making some money.. I am not sure if this is something which is done in the states - but they buy the magazines at say 25 pence each and sell then for £1 allowing them to make 75p per magazine sold - this is done to help them get back up and running again. Some of these people though don't look like they need to be selling the magazines - there is a guy who sells this magazine near my office who is always decked out in

      • Re:wait (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CRCulver (715279)

        In the UK lots of homless people sell a magazine called the Big issue as a method of making some money.. I am not sure if this is something which is done in the states

        This is an international thing. I've seen it in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where they sell a magazine called "Straat" that's actually worth reading, and in Chicago, where there are now several magazines, most of which aren't so good.

        • and in Chicago, where there are now several magazines, most of which aren't so good.

          Washington D.C. has a pretty good one, called Street Sense [streetsense.org] which is written or co-written by the homeless in addition to being sold by them. One of the most gripping headlines they ran with a few months ago was a city initiative that hired homeless people to evict residents who defaulted on their rent/mortgage. Talk about screwed up...

        • by mcvos (645701)
          This is an international thing. I've seen it in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where they sell a magazine called "Straat" that's actually worth reading
          All major Dutch cities have similar initiatives. Amsterdam has "Z", which I actually read regularly for some time (but not anymore). I think Utrecht and The Hague share "Straatkrant" or something like that. Not sure.
      • I've seen The Onion newspaper sold by homeless people, and I am told that The Onion does this a lot all over the US.
        • I can't tell if you are joking or not, but The Onion is a free paper, like a lot of city weeklies. They make their money off ads alone.

          If a homeless person is "selling" it, that means they grabbed a stack off one of those free newsstand racks somewhere around town in order to run a scam.
      • is always decked out in the latest running shoes which much cost £100

        Maybe the running shoe company gives factory seconds to homeless charities. I wouldn't judge the guy just because of the shoes he's wearing. Big Issue does more than just make magazines for the homeless to sell. The magazine selling is supposed to be a transitional thing, the real objective is to get these people into real jobs, homes, and mainstream society, and getting them a new pair of shoes for a job interview is one of the th

    • Re:wait (Score:2, Interesting)

      My question is how and where are they "homeless" charging the batteries on these devices? My celly won't last three days without a charge.
  • really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ElephanTS (624421) on Monday June 26, 2006 @07:51AM (#15604504)
    The woman in the TFA wasn't exactly homeless homeless. She was staying in a shelter and so able to keep clean and not smell of pee, have clean clothes and so on. I don't imagine anyone going off to 'forge new business relationships' if they hadn't brushed their teeth for a week so I'd say the general 'technology is so great it evens rescues the homeless' message is hype. Even charging up your cell isn't going to be easy when you're sleeping under a bridge.
    • The woman in the TFA

      Forgive me, I've comitted the sin of redundancy.

      Now, what's my PIN number again??

    • I don't imagine anyone going off to 'forge new business relationships' if they hadn't brushed their teeth for a week

      are you sure? its probably been a couple weeks since i last brushed mine, none of my coworkers or customers have said anything so far!
    • Re:really? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:21AM (#15604624) Journal
      The article specifically stated that she was sleeping on benches and that she went to the shelter for internet access. But beyond that, how can you equate living in a shelter with having a home?
    • I don't imagine anyone going off to 'forge new business relationships' if they hadn't brushed their teeth for a week

      On the internet, nobody know's you haven't brushed your teeth.

      There are many different kind of homeless. There's the people who really should be in psychiatric care (they're generally the ones smelling of pee), but there's also a lot of homeless who are normal people like you and I, but have just had some really bad luck. They want a home and a job, but because they have neither, they ca

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:07AM (#15604570)
    People living in coffin 'hotels', doing micro-scale low-revenue high-thoughput business and paying half of what they earn to stay connected to whatever net is hip at the moment. If they're 'richer' they have a container storage somewhere where they keep their stuff. Most of the money won't be payed to own stuff but to have access to things. Homeless will get a new kind of definition. We're seeing societies like this building allready - in Japan for instance, where the cost of living is so high you're a dropout almost as soon as you lose a job. Without the last straw called 'Hartz 4' we'd have the very same situation in germany aswell. In the future it will be very much like in the Novels Neuromancer and Snow Crash in some places.
    • by TheNoxx (412624) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:22AM (#15604631) Homepage Journal
      Well, that's the thing. Extreme capitalism is just another form of extreme opression: work like a dog and do what you're told, or be homeless. That's the biggest problem with not having a liveable minimum wage... everyone lives in fear of losing their paycheck.
      • Well, that's the thing. Extreme capitalism is just another form of extreme opression [sic]: work like a dog and do what you're told, or be homeless. That's the biggest problem with not having a liveable minimum wage... everyone lives in fear of losing their paycheck.

        Are you trying to say that you believe someone else (perhaps everyone else?) owes you a "living wage"? On what basis do you come to that conclusion?

        All that minimum wages do is eliminate the marginal jobs, increasing unemployment. Some peo

        • by kthejoker (931838) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:45AM (#15605122)
          Great in theory, hilarious in reality.

          I love that idea that if minimum wage was raised, Wal-Mart would be forced to cut workers, rather than reduce their huge profit line to meet the new line.

          If I have one worker, and I pay him $15,000 a year, and I make a profit of $60,000 a year, and the government raises his minimum wage to $20,000 a year, I can still make a big profit and afford him.

          That is the dichotomy which is nonexistent in that silly libertarian approach to the minimum wage. If minimum wage is raised, Wal-Mart doesn't have to cut marginalized jobs. They can also raise the costs of their products, or *gasp* not profit *as much* as they were. Profit is still profit. If you can pay a certain wage and make a profit, then that wage is not detrimental to the job market. Despite the Kool-Aid you're selling.

          Of course the goal is to maximize profit, but it's maximizing it *under certain conditions*, which include providing your workers with a livable wage. If the only reason Wal-Mart executives take home huge paychecks (executive : laborer pay ratios are at an all-time high) and I have cheap goods at Wal-Mart is because they aren't paying their workers a livable wage, that's not a sufficient reason to continue paying their workers that same wage.

          The truth (ie reality, not econ 101 theory) is that we have been on a major trend of reverse distribution of wealth - the rich get richer, the poor get poorer - for nearly 15 years in America. To suggest that somehow companies *won't have the money* to pay any additional wages forced upon them by Congress - and will have to cut jobs rather than pay their workers more - is so disingenuous as to be outrageous.
    • in Japan for instance, where the cost of living is so high you're a dropout almost as soon as you lose a job.

      Japan has a similar cost of living as the rest of the West. Don't be fooled by surveys that measure the cost of living for expats, as expats have very different spending patterns than natives, especially when the culture and diet is so different. The homeless problem that suddenly popped up in the 1990's in Japan was caused by insurance providers and banks going bankrupt at the same time as large

  • Beowulf (Score:4, Funny)

    by cerberusss (660701) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:28AM (#15604658) Homepage Journal
    ... a women's shelter with a cluster of internet-connected computers

    Oh NO, even the homeless have Beowulf clusters! Am I the ONLY ONE left on the planet who doesn't run a cluster??

  • Homeless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timbennett (702155) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:29AM (#15604663)
    The group we lump together as homeless are really at least 2 distinct groups. Group 1 are individuals and families who lack a support network such as family or friends, or may just be too proud to impose upon them. These people can be given a helping hand and can re-integrate into society. Group 2 are the chronic homeless. They are the alcoholics, the drug addicts, the mentally insane. Their only goal in life is their next drink. You can institutionalize them or let them be on the street, but you can't help them. And for every yuppie do-gooder out there who wants to help them, please don't ever give a homeless person money. There are extensive networks run by churches and non-profit groups to distribute food to the hungry. There are no programs to distribute cheap vodka. That requires do-gooders to give them money to purchase the liquor. Give the homeless guy in a park a sandwhich, he's liable to throw it back at you. He'll never say no to the quarter though. Funny huh?
    • Re:Homeless (Score:4, Funny)

      by ElephanTS (624421) on Monday June 26, 2006 @08:54AM (#15604809)
      the mentally insane


      As opposed to the physically insane?

      BTW, I disagree with you. I often give homeless people money - some won't want handouts from a church.

    • Re:Homeless (Score:4, Informative)

      by 246o1 (914193) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:01AM (#15604852)
      "They are the alcoholics, the drug addicts, the mentally insane. Their only goal in life is their next drink. You can institutionalize them or let them be on the street, but you can't help them."

      I have no idea how a comment this odious got modded as insightful. There are services available that can and DO help members of all three of those groups recover and lead better, functional lives. While some mental illnesses may as yet be untreatable, many of the homeless in America could no doubt be helped were the medical system remotely responsive to the needs of the poor. Likewise, drug addicts and alcoholics recover all the time, it's such a normal part of society that I'm amazed that you would even say something like this. Perhaps it's different for you, but I know people who have recovered from such situations and gone on to have productive lives. Some people call them 'family,' and I think it's disgusting that you can dismiss them like that. Have you ever given a guy a sandwich and had it thrown back at you? Just because some people out there are going to use money to feed there addictions doesn't mean that all compassion for the homeless is wasted. Have a fucking heart.
      • Re:Homeless (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jellybob (597204) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:31AM (#15605035) Journal
        I'm with 246o1 on this one, as one of my best friends spent several years sleeping on benches in London, and had a major drink and drug problem, and her kids were taken into care - she finished college a couple of years ago, and is now working for a security firm while she goes through University, and has her own flat.

        Anyone can be helped, they just need to want that help. I'm not saying it's easy, but it is most definately possible, and an inspiration for anybody who actually talks to people who havn't had the easy life so many of us are used to.
    • When people think of "the homeless," they generally think of group 1, because they are so much more visible. Group to isn't panhandling on a park bench, so they get forgotten. They're the ones quietly living in their cars, or going from cheap motel room to cheap motel room, or crashing on people's couches. They may not even consider themselves "homeless." But it doesn't make their plight any less important (especially since they're usually the group that are most determined to get back on their feet and who
    • What the hell planet do you live on that means that homeless people aren't allowed to get out of their heads, but smug, patronising bastards like you are? Or that homeless people aren't capable of making life choices for themselves?

      If you're homeless, living on benches, without access to washing facilities for your clothes or your body, without healthcare, regularly getting the shit kicked out of you by smug bastards, being permanently drunk/high is a completely rational, positive choice, compared to the ho
      • That's right, we don't call them alcoholics or drug addicts becasue they drink and abuse drugs, they drink and abuse drugs becasue we call them drug addicts and alcoholics. Please. Where alcoholism and drug addiction are the primary cause of homelessness, such as a person had a fairly stable life, a home, a job, maybe a family, and lost it all because of an unhealthy lifestyle, I can almost garauntee you that they had said lifestyle problem long before anyone called them on it. There are a lot of people i
    • Re:Homeless (Score:4, Informative)

      by ignacionyc (985037) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:41AM (#15605096)
      Yeah, I give food to homeless all the time. druggies and alchies, they eat it. There are programs in nyc to distribute food to the homeless, by going out into the streets and subways... I've never seen anyone turn down food. Its not quite right to say that you can't help group 2. I've known some group 2'ers who have gotten themselves together, i know group 1ers who became group 2ers... alchoholism, drugs, depression... all easy to get fucked up by when you're out on the streets. The idea that only group 1 can reintegrate and 2 can't isn't entirely accurate, Mitchel Duniere has shown in his ethnographic study of street vendors on 6th avenue between 8th and west 4th in manhattan how what you call group one'ers can help and mentor group 2'ers and help them get clean and help them start becoming self-sufficient by giving them jobs (manning book tables, scavenging, saving table spaces overnight. Many number 2s were once number 1s. Of course you can't help everyone, and of course some people relapse.. but people with homes relapse as well. The homeless of any kind don't always rely on the housed for help, a lot of them help each other or themselves. This isn't always the case I agree, but many times it is.
      • Re:Homeless (Score:4, Interesting)

        by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:20AM (#15605357)

        Yeah, I give food to homeless all the time. druggies and alchies, they eat it. There are programs in nyc to distribute food to the homeless, by going out into the streets and subways... I've never seen anyone turn down food.

        While I agree with most of your sentiments, I think it is important that people understand this particular assertion does not hold true everywhere. I've seen attempts to hand out sandwiches to the poor that were greeted much, much more poorly. Only about 1 in 5 were interested in the food. Half would take it, then ask for money for some other reason and discard the food when none was provided. A number reacted violently, either threatening physical attacks or verbally attacking those giving out food. I personally witnessed this once and was told of the same response during several other attempts in the area.

        When there are good shelters and food sources around, most of those begging for money for food are simply trying to run a scam and a significant number are not even homeless (according to homeless people at one of the local shelters). Many of those who are homeless, prefer it that way and do just fine squatting in an abandoned house and raiding dumpsters. They will beg, but usually it is for booze or drug money.

        I guess what I'm saying is, you probably are doing a lot more good donating to a shelter than you are giving away food or money and if you try the former, make sure you are either in large enough numbers or have the ability to defend yourself.

    • Give the homeless guy in a park a sandwhich, he's liable to throw it back at you. He'll never say no to the quarter though.

      My freshman year we did this as a community service project. We spent an hour making a bunch of ham and peanut butter sandwiches and then went out to a circle where a lot of homeless guys crash. Most of them ended up asking for cigarettes instead of the sandwiches.

    • For an interesting read and one which may challenge your ideas on how to cope with some of the people in these kinds of situations, try this article from the New Yorker [newyorker.com] which explores some of these issues.
    • Group 2 are the chronic homeless. They are the alcoholics, the drug addicts, the mentally insane. Their only goal in life is their next drink. You can institutionalize them or let them be on the street, but you can't help them.

      Do you mean the singular "you", or collective?

      One person with some change in his pocket can't help them. But "we", as in society, can help them if:
      1) they have the will to be helped, and
      2) there is a support system in place to help overcome addictions, and promote mental health

      Most o
    • [blockquote]Give the homeless guy in a park a sandwhich[sic] he's liable to throw it back at you. He'll never say no to the quarter though. Funny huh?[/blockquote]

      You would be what's called an "asshole."

      a) I've given away plenty of sandwiches, juices, and salads and I've never had one thrown at me, ever. These extensive food distribution networks you speak of often have trouble surviving. Even if they manage to get plenty of food donations (and they don't, always) they can have all kinds of other logistical
  • I used to volunteer at a local homeless shelter -- nobody was contemplating getting hooked up to the internet or starting a career. Most of the people in these places are mentally unstable folks who were kicked out of institutions starting in the 80's when funding was slashed or drug/alcohol addicts who simply cannot function in society.

    These folks need medical help, not email.

    Maybe its different in California... but I doubt it.
  • Bunkum (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EMacAonghusa (929754)
    What does "many" mean? Is it even a dozen? Out of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people living on the streets across the US & Europe? Many of these people have barely 2 cents to rub together for food, they ain't blogging, they ain't emailing and they ain't staying connected via cellphone ... Some of them have alcohol problems, some of them drug problems, some suffer from depression or other such problems, and their first concern is living to tomorrow.
    As someone mentioned it's a hype story, s
  • ...that the Internet is shrinking everybody's social life [slashdot.org].
  • by ignacionyc (985037) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:09AM (#15604895)

    Maybe I can give a little first hand background. I was in a relationship with a homeless man for a year 1999 - 2000. We had met and I liked him very much, went on a few dates, was surprised to find out he was homeless because he had a phone number and we emailed each other all the time. He had lost his house a few years prior, and had lived on the streets, shelters on occasion (not so easy for men to get access to shelters actually) and on occasion in churches that were sympathetic. His cellphone and internet access were very important for a few reasons, first of all they allowed him to keep in touch with a support network that could help when necessary. If he absolutely had to get off the streets because the weather was too bad for street sleeping and no shelter room, he could often find a place to crash because he could easily contact friends who could put him up for the night, people he knew before he became homeless and also other homeless people who had gotten into SROs (single room occupancy) and would let him crash on their floor. The cell phone and email also was a great aid in navigating the world of social services... organizations to help him find housing, his caseworkers, his doctor and find work here and there. It is very hard to get a job without a phone number you can be reached at, and without a home you don't have a landline... cellphone might be your only chance at getting the job that will help put you back on your feet.

    If someone he knew and knew of his situation had an odd job that needed doing he could be contacted by cellphone so that he could make some money. He made good money this way, fixing people's computers. All it takes is a cellphone, a little knowledge of computers, and some flyers reading "need help with your computer, affordable computer help, call peter at 555-5555" is all it takes to make a few bucks. Later on he became unable to walk more than a few steps and was confined to a wheelchair, cellphone and email helped him get the info he needed to get a wheelchair which was paid for by his ssi or adap or something, i forget. It also helped out the day his brand new wheelchair wheel fell off while he was going down a hill... he wasn't too badly hurt, but with the cellphone he could reach a friend in the area who could help him get back to his place. I mean this is putting technology to good use, I think... a little different from texting your friends mindless banter and what not.

    Something that a lot of people don't realize is that there are a lot of programs out there for people with these sorts of problems and guess what, most case workers, people at shelters have no idea what is out there in terms of services. Its not their fault, its a lot of stuff to be on top of. Using the internet many people are able to be their own caseworkers, learn about the system, how to find what they need and get the services they need to get back on their feet. They can be more proactive and not just hope that their caseworkers know what they're doing... many do not. you know what else you can find on the internet, housesitting opportunities...

    Peter finally managed to navigate the system and managed to get himself a room at a pretty nice sro, shared kitchen... but private rooms and baths. He wouldn't have been able to get it if there was no way for his caseworker to get in touch with him. nobody is going to go find you on the street if your benefits have been approved... people need to get in touch with you.

    When peter moved into the place, I met a lot of other people and learned about how they ended up in their situation, and how they were dealing. One of the things that I found striking was that a lot of families are broken up by this, women are granted housing along with daughters but men aren't... the idea is that you give to the people who most need the services... but it builds into the system absentee father'ism... eliminates one of the means of support, the family unit. Many places will not allow men in at all. Fathers and sons left to fend for themselves. Fath

  • by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:47AM (#15605131) Homepage
    To quote Franklin D. Roosevelt:

            "Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously."

    With the enormous power we have with the Internet, we could help bring together those people looking for work and those who need their services. It seems to me that the sticking point is usually that neither of them has any money. But, if they could trade some sort of on-line IOUs, and try to honor them, perhaps there is some solution.

    I'm baffled as to how to go about it, but so many people simply looking for work is wrong. If a man is willing to offer his labor, there are needs out there to be filled. To leave him idle wastes his talents and damages his pride.
    • Every time we increase the minimum wage, some people become unemployable. Nobody is going to get paid more than they are worth. We've also made the hiring process expensive. All sorts of dumb questions need to be asked.

      Paying a person $1/hour to scrape gum off the parking lot might really help the person... if this were not illegal.

      In India, there are people who cut grass with scissors.
      • In India, there are people stuck in a position known as debt bondage. [injusticeline.com] Basically, you provide shelter and food for someone in exchange for debt and pay them so little that they can never work it off. It's not a system any sane and humane person would wish for our culture to emulate.

        We used to do so something similar in the US in company towns where everything was owned by the company you worked for and you were only paid in money good at the company store. Deductions were made from your paycheck before yo
  • Homeless Guy Blog (Score:2, Informative)

    by mixonic (186166)
    I haven't RTFA, but I've been a fan of the Homeless Guy blog for a while now (he mentions being included in the Wired article). His site is at http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com], he's living in Nashville, TN right now. He has many enlightening comments on who makes up the homeless population, how politics and "aid" affect them, and the impact of stereotypes. A good read.

    -mix
  • I was wondering why I was suddenly getting this spam:

    "Can you spare 50 cents? A buck, come'n buddy, a buck! Hey...hey...pretty lady, yah you! Com'n give me some change! I'm a veteran with a wife and kids, I swear! Don't you care about vets and kids?..."
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:31AM (#15605419) Homepage Journal
    "an independent internet marketer
    [...]
    But she lives in fear that at any point, circumstances could throw her back into the urban wilderness.
    "

    Like if she gets busted for spamming?

    Homeless spammers. Blade Runner arrives ahead of schedule.
  • This deserves its own thread as I've seen a few comments about people making a lot of money begging. The Straight Dope recently addressed this issue...
  • Support Our Troops (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday June 26, 2006 @11:59AM (#15606028) Homepage Journal
    How about if the US government spent some of the $1 TRILLION we're going to spend on the Iraq War on giving war veterans a home [canada.com]?
  • by v3xt0r (799856) on Monday June 26, 2006 @01:20PM (#15606730)
    I dropped out of high school in 11th grade, and began learning computer graphics and digital audio engineering in a vocational community college program, which I also never completed.

    The reason I could not complete these classes, was due to the fact that I couldn't afford to goto school AND support myself AMD my mother. I literally had to support myself and my mother from the time I was 17, until I was 25. It was horrible! Luckily, I was able to use my PEL grant from community college to get myself a decent computer (celeron 300a) back then, and was able to acquire a great amount of skills and experience, thanks to some really smart and talented friends on IRC.

    I call it: Better learning through IRC.

    When I wanted to learn a new programming language, I could easily find someone on IRC to help get me pointed in the right direction, until I eventually learned enough to walk on my own. I have to thank those IRC characters for helping push me into a job, where as everyone else around me was pushing me into the gutter.

    There is a lot to be said about Open Source Learning, and internet-based home/self education, and I owe it (and them) a lot of thanks.
  • Im Homeless.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ckeo (220727) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:10AM (#15610647)
    I live in Calgary Alberta... I carry a Toshiba portege 3440CT in my backpack and troll parking garages for wireless signals... because my battery dosnt work so the power outlets are also a necessity... I have no addictions like drinking or drugs.. but I also have no friends or family...
    A bad month for `me means living on the streets. tho this is not the first time. I dont go to homeless shelters, nor do I ask people for money. People often stop and offer me money tho... and most tTimes I decline... but as for your money feeding the addictions of the homeless... well... i have to disagree... the majority of panhandlers drink not drugs... druggies have no patience to panhandle.

    For myself, I collect pop/beer cans for a living... and do quite well... $50 - $100 dollars a day...
    plus stuff like cell phones and stuff that people throw out that are easily resellable.

    I dont think many on here know what its like to be homeless and I dont think you should be judging people until you ven been there.. people judge me and assume im homeless so i must be a thief alcoholic or crackhead... im neither.. im just a guy trying to survive... and finish developing my website.

"No matter where you go, there you are..." -- Buckaroo Banzai

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