Tag Archive for downTown U.S.A.

Homeless Woman Becomes Online Celebrity Through Twitter

TwitterLong time readers of this blog might remember when I wrote about Mark Horvath of Invisible People, the homeless man who leveraged YouTube into a way not only out of his plight but also a way to help others amongst the growing ranks of America’s homeless.

Giselle Smith of MSN Money brings us news of another homeless person, a woman this time, who is finding online celebrity in a similar fashion:

Losing her job, getting divorced and a number of health issues caused AnnMarie Walsh to become homeless five years ago, but she found her voice — and a community — on social media.

The 41-year-old suburban Chicago woman slept in an alley when she couldn’t get into a shelter and wrote about her experiences as “PadsChicago” on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a WordPress blog, mostly using free Internet service through the Arlington Heights Memorial Library or a prepaid hand-me-down cellphone.

Her goal was not to complain about her plight, but to help people understand homelessness better.

Walsh’s activity on social media eventually helped her find a social worker that could assist with transitional housing. It also got her noticed by Horvath who helped to amplify her signal. First he introduced her to a team of documentarians working on a film called “Twittamentary.” He also helped bring her to the attention of the 140 Character Conference (named for the limited length of  Twitter messages).

She appeared on stage with Horvath at the conference without telling anyone she was homeless. When she did the reactions were potent:

‘It was very powerful,’ Horvath told the Daily Herald. ‘Most people would not roll down their windows on the exit ramp to ask homeless people their stories. This changed people’s paradigm.’

Since then her story has been run on NBC Chicago and on The Huffington Post, among other media.

This demonstrates two important things that are often lost on most people:

  • The perceived stereotype of the homeless is often inaccurate, especially during times of economic duress such as we have experienced for the past three years.
  • The power of social media to shine a spotlight on issues such as homelessness. As access becomes more readily available even the homeless have an avenue through which to share their stories.
Fact are vital, but it is so often personal narrative that makes an impression. It’s one thing to hear that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development reports roughly 1 in every 200 persons in the US used the shelter system at some point during the 2008-2009 period. It is another thing entirely to hear the story of one individual’s trials.
It is through these personal stories that we begin to see that true human cost of homelessness. It is these narratives that we present in d0wnTown USA, as we try to provide a view of the real people suffering on our streets.
Image Source: trekkyandy on Flickr, used under it’s Creative Commons license

Susan Madden Lankford to Host Encinitas Library Food Drive

downTown USA: A Personal Journey with The HomelessAs part of its Third Wednesday Series, the Friends of the Encinitas Library presents our own Susan Madden Lankford this Wednesday, September 15, at 6:30 p.m. Lankford will host the library’s annual food drive for the Encinitas Community Resource Center’s Food Program. The library staff will be collecting non-perishable food items at the event, so we encourage you to bring donations.

Additionally, we would like to thank KPBS for the kind words about Susan in its article that announced the food drive:

Lankford’s penetrating photographs, rich personal narrative, and candid interviews are supplemented by contributions from the street people themselves, creating a compelling portrait of a population at risk. Susan will be exhibiting photography from both of books — ‘downTown U.S.A.‘ [link is ours] and ‘Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time.’

Here is a taste of what you will be in for:

Please join us at the Encinitas Library, and bring some canned goods! The event is free and open to the public. The address is: 540 Cornish Dr. in Encinitas [Google Map].

Source: “Susan Madden Lankford, Author & Photojournalist, Hosts Food Drive,” KBPS, 09/15/10
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Call To Action

HUMANE EXPOSURES will be hosting our second “Call to Action” event, bringing together community activists, politicians and their staff, business owners, and residents to explore solutions to the crisis of homelessness in downtown San Diego.

Topics of discussion: