NPR covers Mark Horvath’s

I try and spend some time each week serving lunch at Project H.O.M.E.’s “Women of Change” with other fellow CIM Volunteers. I’m engaging some of the folks who work at Women of Change into possibly trying a project along these lines. I think Mark Horvath is onto something by sharing these stories as raw as he does. “Former Homeless Man’s Videos Profile Life On Street”

Reference Links:


Mark Horvath: haRdLy NOrMal

Unemployed? Don’t Apply Here

Imagine you are unemployed and are applying for a new job at a company you are qualified for, and want to work for, and being notified that your application will not be accepted, because you are already unemployed.

This is what some job hunters are facing in this increasingly look-the-other-way unemployment situation according to Laura Bassett in The Huffington Post: “Disturbing Job Ads: The Unemployed Will Not Be Considered”. There is a good thread at “Hacker News” as to why this makes no sense, getting beyond the ethical and moral concerns of it.

Three to inspire

While the three following stories are not related, each spoke to me this week. From growing up without a father and without decent male role models, to finding a path out of homelessness, to just trying to figure out what it means ‘to be’.. great stuff here:

R.O.O.T. Webzine: @SheIsAnarchy003: “I’m Not Sleeping: Compassion, Respect and Bono”

gapingvoid: @avflox: “”a child would not hesitate to pack up a sleeping bag and sleep on a pier under the stars with you”

YouTube: “Vignette from Project H.O.M.E.’s 20th Anniversary Gala (Employment)”:

“Life shows up, and this time I was there”

It’s cold out – what you can do to help homeless in Philadelphia

Write on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet or purse.

If you see a homeless person living on the streets in the cold please call that number.

Its Project H.O.M.E.’s Outreach Hotline.

If you happen to be homeless, in need of services, and have access to a phone, call 1.877.222.1984.

It’s that simple.

If you have more time or resources, think about volunteering or donating to Project H.O.M.E..

This post inspired by Garret Vreeland‘s recent link to CNN story “How to help the homeless in the cold”.

danah boyd On Facebook, Class, Privacy, and Public-ness

danah boyd: “Facebook’s move ain’t about changes in privacy norms”

Public-ness has always been a privilege. For a long time, only a few chosen few got to be public figures. Now we’ve changed the equation and anyone can theoretically be public, can theoretically be seen by millions. So it mustn’t be a privilege anymore, eh? Not quite. There are still huge social costs to being public, social costs that geeks in Silicon Valley don’t have to account for. Not everyone gets to show up to work whenever they feel like it wearing whatever they’d like and expect a phatty paycheck. Not everyone has the opportunity to be whoever they want in public and demand that everyone else just cope. I know there are lots of folks out there who think that we should force everyone into the public so that we can create a culture where that IS the norm. Not only do I think that this is unreasonable, but I don’t think that this is truly what we want. The same Silicon Valley tycoons who want to push everyone into the public don’t want their kids to know that their teachers are sexual beings, even when their sexuality is as vanilla as it gets. Should we even begin to talk about the marginalized populations out there?

Recently, I gave a talk on the complications of visibility through social media. Power is critical in thinking through these issues. The privileged folks don’t have to worry so much about people who hold power over them observing them online. That’s the very definition of privilege. But most everyone else does. And forcing people into the public eye doesn’t dismantle the structures of privilege, the structures of power. What pisses me off is that it reinforces them. The privileged get more privileged, gaining from being exposed. And those struggling to keep their lives together are forced to create walls that are constantly torn down around them. The teacher, the abused woman, the poor kid living in the ghetto and trying to get out. How do we take them into consideration when we build systems that expose people?


Bruce Schneier: “The Eternal Value of Privacy”

Nicholas Carr: Other people’s privacy

NPR on the ‘Fierce Urgency Of Now’ Remembering MLK And The ‘Fierce Urgency Of Now’:

King spoke of a debt before he spoke of the dream. This is important to remember because it shows his focus on economic conditions and problems in America. King was concerned not only with fighting segregation and discrimination, but also with fighting poverty. During his last year he was organizing a poor people’s campaign to come to Washington, D.C.

Mike Newall in Metropolis covers the state of Frankford, NE Philadelphia

We moved around Philadelphia a lot growing up but I ended up back in Frankford in my 20s which leads it to have a special place in my bones. Mike Newall, for the new online publication “Metropolis”, has written a must read series on the challenges taking place there in “The Frankford Story”.

Using the Internet and Media to Make a Difference

Being the Difference names Mark Horvath “Person of the Year”.

Read the link – be inspired – then find a way to act. No matter how small. A tweet here, a blog post there, actually can push the ball forward. Making a donation to organizations like Project HOME or donating your time, even better.

Lately, my mind has been thinking about Camden Hopeworks. They are a nonprofit teaching program that provides youth with experience building websites and GIS/Mapping solutions for clients across the area. Check out the Hopeworks GIS Gallery.

Bob Burtman, for Miller-McCune, recently wrote a related piece about GIS, “The Revolution Will Be Mapped”. You will want to check out the Metafilter thread it spawned.

Thoughts On Becoming Self-Sufficient and Defeating Personal Homelessness

A friend had recently asked me what it took for me to become self-sufficient and no longer be homeless.

Lets define the word ‘homeless’ first. There were times in my life, in the early 90s, when I found myself sleeping on the Frankford El, in a train station, on a bus, or in an illegal squat. I had a choice to go to a shelter. I did not. Mostly out of fear and ignorance. Today, I wouldn’t hesitate. For me, the state of homelessness is defined by not having a reliable single place to hang your coat, to be with friends, family, to receive mail, and to sleep at night. If you are in this boat – you are homeless.

There were a few reasons for me ending up in this situation. Some of which are outlined in older posts on my blog, others I have not shared and am not comfortable sharing. Maybe someday I will write more. I find it difficult to talk about and do so in bursts.

Here is a quick outline of some steps took for me to earn self-sufficiency:

  • A friend: Someone who will be a good reference. You will need this to find a job. I was blessed with a few great ones. Teachers and counselors would vouch for me too. Being on the honor roll counted for something in high school.
  • A virtual-home: A place to sleep and shower, a place to register on work applications. I wasn’t about to go to a shelter, or have a shelter listed as my residence. I slept on trains and in squats. I “showered” in fast food restaurant bathrooms or in showers without hot water (the absolute worst – I hate cold water). You will need someone to say you live at an address for work applications and to get phone messages. Again it was friends to the rescue. By lieing and saying I was living at their address, even though I wasn’t, I appeared “normal” to employeers.
  • Skills: Almost anything helps. 7-11 in a bad neighborhood was my ticket. They required little in the way of skills, and were willing to train. That helped for my next job.
  • Something to eat: A job at 7-11 midnight shift. Guess where my primary source of food came from?
  • Saving for your place: A huge obstacle to overcome. At near minimum wage it can take months to save for an apartment. Again, for me, it was friends to the rescue. Someone vouched for me to a landlord, and I made a deal to spread out paying my security deposit amongst several rent payments.
  • Transportation: Without it you will never hold or find a job. One of my priorities each month was to buy a SEPTA transpass. This was very important. You needed transportation to look for a job and hold one. You needed transportation to maintain contact with your friends. Sometimes you needed a transpass just to find a place to sleep. This was a higher priority then food. You can always “find” food. You gotta *buy* transportation.
  • Clean Clothes: You may have few clothes – but keep them clean no matter what. Shoddy clothes make it harder for people to trust you as responsible.
  • Realizing the road is incremental: You need to take things one step at a time. If you can only get an apartment, and not afford utilities, that is better then not having an apartment. Having the apartment will help you find a job that will pay enough for utilities. This is really difficult. I know a lot of people who get overwhelmed by expecting their goal to be achieved in one step. My experience tells me that’s a fairy tale. Things happen incrementally. Sometimes with the smallest of steps.
  • Use the Internet: While the Internet didn’t help me end my homelessness, it did help me work my way to a middle class career and has been a tool in maintaining it. Friends I met online helped get my resume to where I needed it seen, and countless web site and forum helped me learn the basics of computer programming. These days it is your doorway to many resources, including connecting with others working through the same issues you are facing. This last matter is most important. Knowing you are not alone and connecting helps face the day to day. This is emphasized in my next point.
  • People matter: I don’t think I would have had any progress without mentors, friends, and faith. When I speak of faith, I don’t speak of faith in the stereotypical sense. When I say faith… I mean faith that things can get better and that I *do* have a role in my outcome. I have freewill. As it says in ‘Seven Habits’, between stimulus and response I have the freedom to choose. That counts for something. When I say friends and mentors – well I would not be here today if it wasn’t for them. From Richelle, who has always believed in me, to my mothers at Sears (Mary, Joan, Paula), to various bosses along the way who became mentors and friends, Debbie, Sarah, Joe, Pat, Rajiv, to my brother Steve and my brother Dante, to Richelle’s parents whom I eventually won over. To all those who took a chance on me I owe so much thanks.
  • Try and be a ‘good person’ – don’t be an asshole: I do not believe that life is fair. Instant karma is bullshit. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people every day. So trying to ‘be good’ for some kind of reward is fruitless (at least in this world). What I *do* believe is that if you try to always do the right thing, if you work at being a good person everyday (you will fail sometimes, just *try* every day) – well you might find yourself with friends and family where you didn’t think you had any. In “All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten” it says “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”. That says it all really.

There are times when I feel like I am about to lose it all and end up back where I started. Sometimes, I look at a bench and want to curl up into a ball and sleep. There are times when I look at those I associate with, work with, hang out with, and feel… alien. These feelings are irrational, and thank goodness I can recognize them as such. It’s been over 15 years now – a half a life a way.

Most time I feel like the most blessed man on Earth, with a job and family that I need to pinch myself to believe I have. I am very, very blessed and thankful.

2009 is coming to a close. It’s been a big decade. Lots of ups, lots of change, lots of terrible horror. My history informs me that there can be light in the darkness, and hope can triumph over over the cold. So contrary to what you may think, I would not trade my experience for anything. It gives me valuable perspective. When I let it – it fuels my optimism. But its hard for those with tragedies so great and for many ongoing. My thoughts are with those who are fighting on and for those unable to fight.

Update: I’ve posted a followup to this detailing why this road is getting harder.