Facebook and Twitter Are Helping the Homeless

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By NATE BERG

homeless with cell phone

Homeless people have Facebook friends, too. According to a new study from University of Dayton sociologist and criminologist Art Jipson, homeless people are increasingly connected to each other and to non-homeless people through social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, accessed through cell phones.

Jipson found, through interviews with a relatively small sample of homeless people in the Dayton area, that the homeless are using the sites for their social networking aspects, but also for day-to-day practicalities: finding places to sleep, sources of food and access to services.

Given the relative cheapness of pay-as-you-go cell phones (especially compared with housing costs), it’s not surprising to find that an increasing amount of homeless people are using cell phones to access the internet. A study by USC researcher Eric Rice released in December found that 62 percent of homeless youth have cell phones. An earlier study found that 85 percent of homeless youth are frequent internet users, either through cell phones, libraries or youth agencies. This 2009 story from The Washington Post found prevalent cell phone and email use among the homeless in Washington D.C.

Advocates who work with the District’s homeless estimate that 30 percent to 45 percent of the people they help have cellphones. A smaller number have e-mail accounts, and some blog to chronicle their lives on the streets.

Read full article at The Atlantic Cities