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International Homeless Forum

category international | miscellaneous | news report author Saturday June 18, 2005 16:32author by Jon Glackin - Street Seenauthor email streetseen at hotmail dot co dot ukauthor phone 07743275533 Report this post to the editors

'We wanted people to realize homeless people weren’t statistics, they were real people...'

Everybody seems to be online these days, checking out the information superhighway Information is at our fingertips. Knowledge is power! Street Seen is delighted to be associated with a new initiative that has began in Australia that uses the power of the internet as a means of communication between homeless people throughout the world and for service providers an area to share ideas and news

vbulletin3_logo_white_1.gif

Dominic Mapstone, Social Worker in Sydney Australia and Director of Rebecca’s Community, was the bright spark behind this most needed forum. Rebeccas Community was founded in 2002, a community group whose staff and volunteers work with people who experience homelessness in Sydney, Australia. According to ‘official’ figures there are over 100,000 houseless people in Australia and the problem seems to be growing, certainly, something one wouldn’t realise when our knowledge is mainly limited from a daily diet of Australian soaps! As they say ‘everyone needs good neighbours’ maybe we should start putting that into practice. The Website features pictures and real life stories of homeless people, statistics, research, media coverage of homelessness and debate as to how to define homelessness. Their website has been online for 12 months and we believe it is very important to promote the site.

Street Seen caught up with Dominic and posed a few questions to learn more about their work:

So where did the idea for your website come about?

Online we found plenty of dry statistics on homelessness, some policy papers and lots of lame fundraising attempts written by the marketing consultants who know nothing about homelessness. For students wanting to learn, for people wanting to give money and for a community wanting to understand homelessness it was quite a task to find anything of real substance online. We did manage to find some great sites, but it took a lot of searching. So when it came to building our own website we started with the standard brochure type info about our organisation, but added a photo gallery of homeless people and the places they sleep, squats and so on Then we added some life stories that were about real homeless people. Mainly because we wanted people to realize homeless people weren’t statistics, they were real people with real stories. Traffic to the site jumped to 1,000 page views per day. We are especially pleased with this as the photos are something mainstream folk just don’t get exposed to. Not just the shocking photos but the pictures of street kids that look like any other kid that age.

Gish, one of the residents at Hospitality House added an online journal writing about his journey through life on the streets to living with us and moving towards his new life off drugs and off the streets. Then we added a directory of other homeless service providers around the world some youth ministry resources and the international homeless forum Then traffic to the site jumped to 2,000 page views per day. Emails we receive are usually from students wanting help with school or University assignments or children thinking about running away. The emails from future runaways prompted a page dedicated to young runaways, listing some help lines and an email address they could reach us on for a confidential chat

What do you view as the most important aspect of the site?

The homeless forums are where we would like to see the most visitors stop by. A place where we would like to bring homeless people and formerly homeless people online together with the students and people wanting to learn about homelessness. Moving off the streets and getting a new group of friends is near impossible for many homeless people. People don’t understand you or the world you came from. You feel like a stranger and people treat you that way. Connecting with other formerly houseless people in the forum will hopefully make that journey easier and less demoralizing.
The forum has the potential to become a meeting ground where currently homeless people can connect with formerly homeless people or even another homeless person in another country. The traffic to the site is there, we just now need to welcome people into the Forum and get ‘the word on the street’ amongst homeless people around the world (is that even possible?). Surprisingly, or maybe not so, a lot of homeless people use the internet, so we will see.

Did you receive any funding for the project?

There isn’t funding for a project like this, but as soon as we realized the opportunity to bring people together we went ahead with it and funded the project ourselves.

In your experience how would you define homelessness?

The crux of homelessness, we believe is social exclusion and disconnectedness. Houselessness is an inadequate experience of shelter. Some people living on the Streets only need shelter, and then they are back on top. Real homelessness is intangible and has nothing to do with where you lay your head to sleep. Homelessness we believe is an inadequate experience of connectedness with family and or community.
So it’s not really of any great help if we only house the homeless. They are still completely isolated and very much alone. The feeling of a set of house keys in your pocket will never rival the feeling of connectedness with people who stick with you no matter what happens. Families are supposed to stick by each other, neighbours and communities are supposed to pull together when a member is in need, but it doesn’t work like that anymore does it?
As a service provider that means we have to see the person that presents, not the problem they present with and seek an ongoing relationship with people after the problem is long gone. We have to develop relationships and value them as the outcome.

Is it all worth it?

After a decade of pursuing this objective of friendship with people who experience homelessness I can honestly say, it is worth it, to stop and really listen. That is when we can meet as fellow human beings and be present with each other. Anyway, stop by at the forums and introduce yourself, make yourself at home and help put the word on the street. The website has also allowed us to share information with the sector on Homelessness and what we have learnt here in Australia.

The forum has the potential to be a very powerful and valuable asset here in Ireland and across the World. A Forum like this is most needed and very important so spread the word and join the discussions as soon as you can…..

Related link: http://www.homeless.org.au/rebeccas-community/

Related Link: http://forums.homeless.org.au
author by Clarepublication date Mon Jun 20, 2005 14:16Report this post to the editors

Great idea and good article john.
Though how are homeless people supposed to plug in their computers. I have never seen a homeless person carrying their laptop?

author by Jon Glackinpublication date Tue Jun 21, 2005 01:31Report this post to the editors

Thanks Clare!
Tis true you wouldnt meet many Homeless folk carrying laptops!
Most Hostels have internet access that should be encouraged. In Belfast I know of quite a few Hostels that offer Internet usage, this should be encouraged. One can join the libraries here as well that offer free internet usage, only downside is that proof of id and domestic adddress is required though there are ways around this, if people want to email me.
In Dublin I also know of a few hostels that provide similar facilities. Dublin VEC offer great facilities as well and they operate drop in facilities and we are in the process of faciliting some web courses there..again mail me for details if you know of someone interested.
At the moment we are designing posters flyers to get circulated across the land to highlight the forums..so again get in touch here or mail me if any one has any ideas as to how develop the project here.

Anyhows I would encourage people to visit the forums and maybe give us some suggestions, critiscms or even praise!!!
Tread Softly,
jon

author by Querypublication date Tue Jun 21, 2005 14:21Report this post to the editors

Jon,

As activists in Ireland how is this relevant to homeless people here?
What do you propose is the best way forward for campaigning on homeless issues here?

author by Ciarapublication date Tue Jun 21, 2005 18:30Report this post to the editors

International? Internationally speaking there's a lot of homeless people in places like Darfur...

Closer to home, "Moving off the streets and getting a new group of friends is near impossible for many homeless people", using the internet?

author by Dominic - Rebeccas Communitypublication date Wed Jun 22, 2005 07:55Report this post to the editors

Thanks StreetSeen for posting the article.

Internet Access
You will find a lot of public libraries offer free internet access, and like anyone else homeless people can and do in some cases visit an internet cafe.

Blogs
One of the more well known homeless people online is Kevin, who has a blog about his life on the streets here: thehomelessguy.blogspot.com and there are several other homeless people who have blogs.

Email
A surprising number of homeless people, especially the younger ones actually have an email address. So there are some using the net at some point.

Future
So for those who can and do access the internet either before, during or after they experience homelessness... the space is there and a welcoming community of people who know and understand homelessness.

For those who have clicked through to the forum ( http://forums.homeless.org.au ), you will see a few people have taken advantage of the opportunity already. Hopefully it will become more widely used in days to come.

Related Link: http://www.homeless.org.au
author by hobopublication date Thu Jun 23, 2005 19:27Report this post to the editors

quote....
Question?
by Clare Monday, Jun 20 2005, 1:16pm


Great idea and good article john.
Though how are homeless people supposed to plug in their computers. I have never seen a homeless person carrying their laptop?



i was homeless for just under 3 years n i still used the internet.. collages, liabrarys, cafes... open yer eyes.. just coz yer homeless dosent mean yer shut off from the world

author by Amazedpublication date Thu Jul 21, 2005 18:10Report this post to the editors

I have just visited your Homeless site and it is amazing the work you guys are doing.I bought your paper today where I found the details of there and here. I noticed you earlier posted here details from Palestine. Credit where credit is due John. Keep up the good work! You are an inspiration and a breath of fresh air.

author by Jon Glackin - Street Seenpublication date Thu Oct 20, 2005 17:29Report this post to the editors

Just to announce that there is a dedicated Irish section at the international forum now.
It would be great if people could keep people internationally informed whats happening!

author by observer2publication date Thu Oct 20, 2005 19:16Report this post to the editors

good on you, jon. great piece , just came from the wet shelter, people need to see the real face of homelessness, it's called death!

author by homeless personpublication date Sun Jan 29, 2006 23:11Report this post to the editors

If your are homeless this site is nothing but a way to get you to access services. It is'nt just a place to visit with other homeless people. So be prepared to be fixed and told what a piece of crap you are if you don't want to be fixed. Lots of ear banging. Oh yeah they have their formerly homeless minions to help support you if the cognative dissonance gets too rough. Its like a friggin cult. If you disagree with the authorities they will "socially exclude" you. Abusivelly so. If your homeless you already have the picture. If you want to get off the streets and your in the states just go to your nearest homeless shelter and throw yourself into the meat grinder there, no need starting at the homeless forum cyberspace reeducation camp. What'll the social workers think of next. Sheesh

author by Mark Spencerpublication date Tue Aug 15, 2006 05:19Report this post to the editors

though some of you might find this interesting ...

www.beneaththebridges.com

author by Chris Harkness - h2obo.netpublication date Fri Sep 08, 2006 00:13author email hark55 at gmail dot comReport this post to the editors

My partner and I have started a website to call attention to the plight of the homeless. We feel that the people standing on street corners hoping for a handout are not disposable human beings that have outlived their usefulness to society.
With our website (www.h2obo.net) we simply wish to contribute what we can to make the unfortunate few retain some degree of dignity and self-respect in a world refusing to acknowledge their existence. Like it or not they do exist. Don’t just pass them by. Do something.

Related Link: http://www.h2obo.net
author by Anonymouspublication date Mon Dec 04, 2006 08:23Report this post to the editors

This is just horrible. I'm homeless and all the links are broken. Very frustrating to say the least. Yes, homeless people do have access to the internet.

author by joegouldIIIpublication date Sat Sep 14, 2013 19:01author email joegouldIII at yahoo dot comReport this post to the editors

I , I am commenting on this old line because it relates to the International Homeless Forums , where I was a poster recently but which appear to be down 100% now .
I posted as the above , JGIII , and I am in Northern California , USA .

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