Ending Homelessness Today — Social Media
Some songs about homelessness
August 03, 2012
Here at the Alliance we have a lot of multimedia sent to us all the time – music, films, artwork – all of it in support of our mission of ending homelessness. It’s heartening to us that people feel strongly enough about the issue of homelessness to make it the subject of their art, and that they have a high enough opinion of our organization to want to share it with us.
So now we’d like to share with you a few items that have recently come to our attention: two videos and a song.
The first was brought to us by John McGah, a presenter at our July conference who has also written guest pieces for the blog you’re reading right now. He directs the Give US Your Poor initiative and is a Senior Associate at the National Center on Family Homelessness.
This is the music video for the song “Poorhouse” by Great American Taxi.
You can see Vince Herman, singer-songwriter of Great American Taxi, talk about his own brush with homelessness here.
The second song is called “Housing First.” It’s hard to imagine someone taking a concept like housing-first and turning it into a catchy, slickly produced folk-rock song, but that’s exactly what singer-songwriter Daniel Paul Nelson did.
Click here to listen to it on Soundcloud.
... Read More »
How do we make our community better?
March 21, 2011
I’ve been doing some thinking about community.
Last week, the Nonprofit Technology Conference descended on DC. Every year, thousands of happy geeked-out NGO workers get together to find out what’s new in the field of technology and how those new shiny tools can be used to make NGOs better!
And while I enjoy the workshops, I think what NTC does best is gel a community together. There’s always ample opportunity to mingle between workshops, there’s a community lounge where people can rest up, plug in, and meet new people. There are endless opportunities for people who live in the same city, who have the same job functionality, who have the same interests, who have the same challenges to share their struggles and stories. And the playful spirit of the conference – from the opening remarks to the ice cream breaks to the relaxed dress code – perpetuates a sense of ease and comfort. “We’re all in this together!” the conference seems to announce from the get-go.
And that experience, at least for me, is the backbone of this community. Every year, I’m excited to see the friends I met the year before and throughout the year, I join in on webinars and conference calls to stay updated on what’s happening. And I know that there is a resource out there to which I can turn if I find myself up against a technology wall I can’t hurdle over. We... Read More »
We're online: Thoughts from a luddite-in-disguise
February 23, 2011
So Anna and I just got off a webinar about the new Facebook pages offered by Andrew Cohen, managing editor at Forum One. (Disclaimer: Forum One is our internet strategy/website development/all things geeky consultant. But they do offer some good notes about Facebook for new users!).
Yesterday, Anna sat in on a call hosted by Network for Good on ways to improve web writing and compose better micro-content for social networks (specifically, fundraising on social networks).
And just this morning, I got a call from an eager outreach officer asking me to embed some video on our social networks to support a homelessness radio marathon streaming live from Kansas City, MO.
And so I find myself again at that juncture between social change and social media.
At the Alliance, we continue our struggle to find the right balance between traditional and social media outreach. We work hard to assess and re-assess the value and return of our Facebook page, our Twitter account, our blog. And based on the community online, based on the emails I receive, and based on the chatter around the office, I know that we’re not the only ones to struggle with these not-really-new-anymore mediums.
Me – I’m a luddite-in-disguise (and it’s not a great disguise either). As much as I like the new and shiny tools online, I’d really rather not have to learn a whole new thing – especially if it’s going to tak... Read More »
How we communicate about homelessness
December 20, 2010
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with members of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness – brand new research director Kristy Greenwalt (formerly of ICF International and communications director Jason Kravitz.
We did a lot of talking about communications.
It’s always the same questions: what are the best methods to share information with lots and lots of people? How do we get information to where people are? How do we know what information to give them? How do people consumer information nowadays? And (my personal favorite) what if the information they want isn’t the information we want them to want?
Basically the same topics that haunt any thoughtful communications officer in her sleep.
But despite my fears of the 24-hour news cycle, the unwieldiness of social media, the impact – or lack thereof – of newsletters and email campaigns, I generally try to come back to two main guiding principles (fingers-crossed): a) the goals of the organization and b) the information I want to share.
And I find when I keep that in mind, my work becomes clearer.
I try to push out the great resources we have to share: our counts data, our best practices, our community snapshots, our interactive tools. We consider our audience, the ever-shortening time span of the average consumer, the best and most concise tools we have. We blog to clarify the information we send out, we link to other articles, briefs, and notes we ... Read More »
Social Media for Social Change (or ending homelessness?)
December 13, 2010
This morning, our friend Nathan Rott wrote piece about Eric Sheptock, a consumer advocate for homeless people in Washington, D.C.
Eric is a homeless advocate who, himself, is experiencing homelessness. As Nathan observed, “Being homeless has become Sheptock's full-time occupation. It's work that has provided him with purpose and a sense of community.”
And not just in person, but online. Eric has a robust Facebook and Twitter network and two blogs in which he chronicles his life as a person experiencing homelessness. Social networks have become a powerful medium for Sheptock to spread his message and amass followers. “"I don't think I'd be able to do much of anything without the Internet," Nathan quotes Eric.
And it’s not just Eric. Another good friend of the Alliance – Mark Horvath has taken the cause of assisting homeless people online. With a ceaseless stream of tweets, Facebook posts, streaming video, and countless other mediums, Mark peppers his ever-growing group of followers with information about and thoughts on the state of homelessness wherever he goes. He’s even taken his mission on the road – traveling cross-country and back to learn about homelessness on the ground and relay it to his awaiting digital public.
Their stories, Mark and Eric’s, are compelling, stirring, moving. They serve an important role in our efforts to end homelessness – drawing awareness and attention to the problem so that it becomes real and palpable to decision makers and activists. Creati... Read More »
The 10 Best Things on Our Website
October 20, 2010
So after tipping my hat to the 100,000 Homes Campaign for featuring our interactive tools and maps on their (awesome!) blog, I did a little tooling around to remind myself of other really useful tools on our very own website!
The Alliance has, for almost 30 years, lead the campaign to end homelessness in the United States. And over the decades, we’ve accumulated the data, best practices, and effective strategies necessary to end homelessness.
And we’re hoping to share them with you!
After checking out our most visited pages and most popular tools, we’ve compiled a list of ten things - links, pages, reports – you need in order to end homelessness in your community (read: really great tools and info). And, just for good measure, I've tossed in a couple not-so-popular but ever-so-useful links as well.
The About Homelessness section.
This section gives you a broad snapshot of homelessness at the national level and includes sections and information on different demographics, the cost of homelessness, and maps produced by the Homelessness Research Institute(HRI).
The Interactive Tools and Solutions section.
HRI produces a number of charts, tools, and maps to help you better understand homelessness. Some of the more recent tools illustrate the number of doubled-up households in the United States, HPRP spending per household in the cities we’re tracking, and reductions in point-in-time counts necessary to meet the goals outlined in the federal strategic plan to end homel... Read More »
Social Media and Social Change
September 28, 2010
Yesterday, my colleague Anna and I attended a workshop hosted by Ogilvy on the role of social media in government, “OGILVY 360 DI GOV 2.0 EXCHANGE: How Social Media Tools are Shaping Government, the 2010 Elections and Issue Campaigns.”
(Long, I know).
I’ve been to a number of workshops that discuss the ways different sectors can use social media: how to use social media for nonprofits, how to use social media for companies, how to use social media for yourself, and on and on and on.
For me, the central debate in these workshops is not the different way that the tools can be utilized (because really, that’s what these social media applications are, right? New communications tools?) but the principles guiding their use. Is the central goal of social media tools is to engage the public by giving them more access?
Put another way, I find myself asking “is more information better than less information?”
For me, the answer to the question is yes. When confronted by different philosophies of communications, I always hear C.J. Cregg’s (Allison Janney played White House Press Secretary turned Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg in the epic teleivion series, West Wing) immortal words ringing in my ears, “information breeds confidence; silence breeds fear.”
(And sometimes frustration.)
It’s the way it’s been here at the Alliance. As we cautiously make our way into the online universe – taking up only what we know we can manage – we... Read More »
Examining The Federal Plan: Objective 2 – Increasing knowledge
September 16, 2010
And it’s back! I’m picking up where Marisa dropped off in learning about the ten objectives of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
Today we’re looking at objective two.
Objective 2: Strengthen the capacity of public and private organizations by increasing knowledge about collaboration, homelessness, and successful interventions to prevent and end homelessness.
As the communications arm of the Alliance, this objective is really important to us. One of the goals outlined in the HRI mission is to build and disseminate information about homelessness and engage the public and the media.
And to that end, we’ve tried to adopt the technologies that make the most sense to us. You’ll find us on Facebook, you can follow us on Twitter, you can check out our videos on YouTube and see our pictures (from our photo contest on Flickr. (And of course, there’s this blog). Through these avenues, we aim to engage supporters and disseminate information about homelessness – and solutions to homelessness.
Of course, the primary vehicle to do just that is our website. There, you’ll find factsheets, solutions, strategies, community snapshots, research, and an oft-visited and very helpful section called About Homelessness. The website is regularly updated with new information about the wide range of issues that intersect with homelessness: health care, veterans affairs, welfare, violence, substance abuse, and the like.
Our challenge is always in reaching the people that need us. Our last us... Read More »
Goodbye from Marisa
August 31, 2010
Hello everyone! I can’t believe my internship at the Alliance is over, but I can definitely say I am so glad I came here! When I interviewed for this job, I just wanted to work for a good cause and I didn’t know anything about homelessness. That certainly isn’t the case now!
I have learned so much about homelessness since I came to the Alliance, my perceptions have been completely changed. I have learned about the struggles the people endure and the causes that force people into homelessness. I have learned that the stereotype I had before I came here was just not in line with reality. The biggest misconception I had? That the people I see on the streets are the majority of the homeless population. Chronic homelessness only makes up 20 percent though! After working here, I will definitely do my best to help change people’s perceptions, because I can see that this is the most important step in affecting change.
It has also been great blogging with you! I had never worked on a professional blog or ran social media for an organization before, but the experience has shown me how such tools can really be great ways to get information out to people. Running social media like Facebook and Twitter has also shown me how we can develop communities of people who really care, to help spread information and start to affect real change.... Read More »
Meet the New Guys
August 10, 2010
For the next two weeks – starting on Monday, August 16 – we’ll be seeing new faces and hearing new voices on the Alliance social networks as staff and interns alike take their intrepid first steps into the Twitterverse, blogosphere, and whatever we’re calling Facebook.
Marisa Seitz is already a familiar face and regular contributor on the Alliance blog. She’s largely responsible for the aesthetic qualities of the new look of the blog and images around the Alliance’s first-ever photo contest. Make her happy and get those photos in!
You’ve probably also heard from Grace Stubee, a returning intern here at the Alliance. She’s hard at work on the advocacy team, helping our hardworking supporters to get their message to their elected officials. Grace will serve as the point person for our photo contest – she can answer all your questions!
From our policy shop, we have Kate Seif, one of the newest full-time Alliance staffers and new assistant to the president. As Nan’s assistant, she triages all the requests, invitations, projects, and papers that Nan receives and handles Nan’s calendar. In addition, she’s a critical element of our policy staff, often serving as point or coordinator on our larger policy publications, including the Policy Guide and upcoming Advocacy Toolkit. She’s also really into vlogging, so look out for videos featuring Kate!
And finally, we have Anna Blasco, social media extraordinaire. Anna is on our admin team and has a s... Read More »
Musings on Social Media
July 07, 2010
A couple weeks ago, I gave a brief, casual presentation about our organizational social media networks over a lunch meeting.
The Alliance has been online for about a year now, on Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, and YouTube.
Not surprisingly, Twitter and Facebook are our most active networks; the blog averages a few thousand readers per month.
And as we invest the time and manpower it requires maintaining these networks (and sometimes it takes quite a bit!), we’re constantly asking ourselves the following questions:
1. What is the goal of our social networks?
2. What do people want from our social networks?
So to answer the second question, we put out a social media survey in May/June of this year. We asked people who they were, what their roles were in the homeless assistance community, how they followed the Alliance, and what content they preferred (Reports? Advocacy updates? Federal policy information?)
And we came up with some interesting results.
The majority of our Twitter users say advocacy updates and opportunities to take action are most useful, followed by media clips about housing and homelessness.
Community members on Facebook, blog, and our weekly newsletter were all most interested in learning about permanent supportive housing; Twitter users were interested in learning about HPRP.
The policy advocates, grassroots advocates/activists, housing/service providers, and interested citizens who follow us all preferred Facebook updates to updates on other outlets.
50 percent of the survey respondents either collaborate w... Read More »
Media 2.0 and Homelessness
June 17, 2010
Hello all! My name's Marisa, and I’m the new social media intern here at the Alliance (there's actually a LOT of new folk here this summer - but more about us later).On June 14, I was given the opportunity to attend a series of talks on social media and media in general, as part of Digital Capital Week, an event focused on technology, innovation, and all things digital in Washington DC.I was sent because, as the Alliance has noted on this blog before, the use of social media tools in poverty and homeless assistance organizations continues to drag behind as compared to other movements.So we're studying up! In a discussion about the use of social media tools in news organizations - “Social and Traditional Media: How News and Media Organizations Are Getting Social and Why They Need to Do It” – panelists were all quick to agree that there is no longer an “if” as to whether businesses and organizations should use social media. Andy Carvin, who works for NPR, noted how people have been “social” with the organization for years, even since the late 1970s when people would send self-created audio files to local stations. Today’s social media platforms - including Facebook and Twitter - are only newer, faster ways for an audience to interact with organizations.The panelists also agreed that the beauty of social media is that it acknowledges the power of the people. According to Carv... Read More »
Are you out there?? Help us find you…online!
May 17, 2010
You’ve been asked before – and no doubt you’ll be asked again. Yes, the Alliance is asking you to participate in an online survey. (We’ve gone to great lengths to try and ensure it’s as quick and painless as possible – I promise.)Here’s the thing: like all nonprofits navigating our way through an increasingly social, online world, we’re trying to figure out where you’re finding us online – and then move in that direction. Like I mentioned in last week’s post about social media in the homeless assistance field, we’ve been trying to make the best use of these great new online tools. Our own personal social media journey has been a pretty rewarding one. We launched social networks in June 2009 and with our one-year anniversary around the corner and a slowly-but-surely-growing audience of supporters, friends, and colleagues, we want to make sure that we’re meeting your needs and expectations. What do you want to hear from us? What do you find most helpful, least helpful? Where do you connect with us – and what forum is most useful for you? Where do you see the Alliance in the homeless assistance field? How do we fit into your efforts?These are all important questions – questions that will undoubtedly inform the way we do our work. And only you can help us find the answers. So please, take a moment to fill out our social media survey. It shoul... Read More »
What's the deal with social media in the homeless assistance field?
May 13, 2010
One of my responsibilities at the Alliance is to manage our social networks, and in the era of furious blogging and even more frenetic tweeting, it can get chaotic. Often times, I find the need to stop, take a breath, and evaluate exactly how all this social media frenzy contributes to the Alliance’s goals and mission.Which isn’t to say I don’t see the value in the mediums. I’m the lucky product of a world full of information technology and social media tools. I grew up with high-speed internet at my fingertips and an iPod on my hip; I was an early adopter of Facebook and yes, I have my very own Twitter account. And while I would hardly call myself a pusher or an expert, I do truly believe in the potential of social media tools to cultivate change, progress, and conversation.It's is why I’m so excited to be doing it in this field. While nonprofits are often slightly behind the curve to pick up new technologies, it’s been my personal experience that my own field has been particularly slow to adopt new media platforms. At this years Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), I found a small cohort of colleagues in the homeless assistance and housing field to swap stories with – and a major theme of those stories is our missing presence among nonprofits utilizing these new tools.And many of us are.At NTC, I too... Read More »
Lessons from the NTEN conference
April 12, 2010
The 2010 NTEN Conference is officially done and over - we all said our goodbyes to lovely, friendly Atlanta, the gorgeous Omni Hotel, and all our new friends and colleagues. And after six sessions, two keynotes, three receptions, and endless networking - followed by a plane ride and a night to sleep on it - I've finally come up with some official lessons from the NTEN conference.We are not alone!Nearly 1500 people descended on Atlanta, GA to take part in the conference - communications officers and IT professionals and fundraisers and executives and a host of other non-profit stakeholders. It was incredible to see the role that technology played in the professional lives of such a diversity of people and positions.Technology = tools.A lot of times, I think we get deluded and think that these new gadgets and gizmos are the answers to our problems. What resonated loudly to me, at least, are that all these innovations in technology are tools - they're instruments presenting new ways an strategies to make us more effective at what we're ultimately trying to do - and not the answer in and of themselves.Technology can be small and intimate...Andrew Sullivan's take on the intimacy of blogging and the social media platform was a new idea for me. Of course I was familiar with the idea that social media is all about relationships, but the idea that blogging, in particular, is... Read More »
Steve Berg on invisibletv!
August 31, 2009
Earlier this morning, Mark Horvath came over to interview Alliance VP Steve Berg on the landscape of homelessness.
In a short conversation (maybe about 15 minutes), the two discuss the recession, housing, and the future of homelessness - both best and worst case scenarios.
If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch it here! Please let me know if you have any reactions, questions or thoughts!
... Read More »
We're on Facebook!
August 18, 2009
After holding out - for months! - I've succumbed to the awesome power of Facebook.
As you can see, we're brand new to the site and we need your support! Please use the link below to become a fan of our organization on Facebook, and get updates on new homelessness research, legislation, and Alliance activities!
Thanks all for your continued support!
National Alliance to End Homelessness on Facebook... Read More »
ADVICE: Podcast Idea - Social Innovation
August 17, 2009
Happy Monday, all!
We here in the research arm of the Alliance are kicking around an idea for a podcast series.
We're thinking about profiling social innovation leaders in the homelessness field. Recipients of social innovation awards, or just organizations and community heavyweights who are leading the charge in looking at homelessness in a new and different way.
Would you guys be interested in something like that?
And would you prefer it live (calling into an audio conference) or would you prefer it taped (posted to our website with maybe some materials)?
Please let me know! I'll hold out for about a week for feedback!
Catherine... Read More »
Annual Conferece - End of Day 2
July 30, 2009
Whew! It's been a LOOOONG day!
Adolfo Carrion, the new Director of the White House Office on Urban Affairs Policy gave the lunchtime keynote, followed by acclaimed scholar Dennis Culhane - whose work informs so many of the most effective and promising strategies in ending homelessness. Adolfo, a self-described "urbanist," reiterated the notes that Secretary Donovan had left us with: together, as a community, we can approach homelessness is a collective, effective, and successful way.
Then, the time came: the communications & advocacy workshop! My big workshop!
I know I'm biased, but I tend to think that communications and advocacy not only go hand-in-hand, but are critical components to our mutual mission to address, prevent, and end homelessness. Our issue is such a delicate, complicated, and expansive one - and effectively relaying those nuances in an intelligent and digestible way requires careful thought and skill. And - as Leslie Kerns of M+R Strategic Services and Ehren Reed of Innovation Networks taught us this afternoon - a strategic campaign to get that message across to those who can sympathize, affect, and make a different.
The two taught us that a great advocacy and communications strategy requires a careful examination of goals, the audience, the message, and a launch - and that examining these factos and making sure that all of them line up are instrumental for a successful campaign. I'll post the materials and ideas generated from the workshop in... Read More »