The New Orleans Street Exchange is launching a street newspaper tomorrow. Listening in on this Twitter discussion and others like it, I'm interested in the ways homeless individuals use and engage with social media, and how that may help them succeed in becoming housed and on track.
Obviously, as a journalist, I feel like news is important to a stable life. Knowing what goes on in the world at large makes me feel connected, part of a larger community. So I'm sure it helps people get back on their feet. I know that most street papers offer news specifically tailored to the homeless - job postings and such - and having an associated Twitter feed and website can only make that information more available to those who need it. The number of homeless individuals who have active Twitter feeds - like Boston native Gary - seems to be growing. I think that's promising.
I think this caution is probably necessary, though. Emphasis on the primary needs of people living on the streets - food, shelter, healthcare - is definitely warranted; good journalism and community engagement come second to those basic requirements (see Maslow's hierarchy). In any case, I'm checking out a similar paper in Cambridge, called the Spare Change News, to see how the concept works.