Using Twitter to Help the Homeless

Using Twitter to Help the Homeless

Mike Tyson
Feb 25, 2011

As new technology continues to pervade every aspect of our lives, humanitarian aid is no different. There is a new initiative brewing in New York to use new technology (namely, Twitter) to help those less fortunate find a voice on a world scale. The effort known as Underheard in New York is a modest startup by three local interns at the BBH advertising agency hoping to do just that.

The mission is simple: give the homeless a voice on a world stage. By utilizing popular social networking tools, Underheard in NY hopes to facilitate their upward mobility in the society. Danny, Derrick, Albert, and Carlos were given prepaid cell phones as well as a Twitter account. They were free to write whatever they want, whenever they want in hopes of giving the world an unprecedented look into the daily life of the homeless. The simple project was produced on a measly $1000 budget.

The initiative is still very young but some good has already come to one of the four men. The participant Danny was reunited with his daughter who hadn't seen him in 11 years thanks to the support of public to help track her down. He also had an interview with CNN that same day as they covered the story. Many of the thousands of the project's followers also expressed interest in donating to help sustain the men.

Because the project is still in its early days of development, assessing any long term success is impossible. Of course the thought is commendable but whether or not the technology is able to aid these men back to a sustainable life has yet to be seen. Many probably remember the ongoing story of Ted Williams or "the man with the golden voice" of YouTube fame. His meteoric rise came from nowhere but the level of stability has been questionable. There is no doubt in our minds that technology has the power to bring awareness to those less fortunate, but whether or not it is a viable solution for long-term success or a mere curiosity/entertainment gimmick will be the ultimate question.

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