Social Media for Social Change (or ending homelessness?)

written by naehblog
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. Creating a tangible, sympathetic reality and dispelling the myths about homelessness is step one in understanding the problem.

But here at the Alliance, we’re also focused on outcomes. We’re aiming to channel this kind of activism so that it can lead to real change for people experiencing homelessness. And not just in the way of soup kitchens and shelters but permanent supportive housing, social services, case management, job training and all the things it’s going to take for someone who’s experiencing homelessness to pull themselves out of it.

Eric and Mark play an important role in homelessness awareness – but you need to step in where their efforts leave off. After encouraging excitement and interest in the captive audience, we need to tell them what to do next: lobby Congress, talk to local officials, volunteer with direct service organizations so that they know what it’s going to take to end homelessness in your communities. Pay attention to policy, read news clips about housing, and stay abreast of emerging trends and information about how to make permanent housing a reality for people experiencing homelessness. Taking off from where some people leave the issue, we need to push our well-informed advocates to take action.

Because learning about homelessness is important – but ending homelessness is what changes lives.

For more information about policies, best practices, and other solutions to homelessness, please visit the Alliance website.