New York Homeless Tweet Experiences

The homeless population is tough to understand. From a quantitative angle, it's tough to maintain counts of where homeless people reside or even how many there are -- this demographic tends to be mobile and under the radar. From a qualitative perspective, they are a demographic that is tough to reach. They live in their own world that is distant from the majority of Americans. Many have mental illnesses and drug addictions that create communication barriers. Simply asking -- "what is your life like?"-- won't yield the answers that we need. From Los Angeles to New York, the world of the homeless is one that few people experience and one that remains isolated from the typical American experience. Even people who have lived their lives around homeless people may never understand some of the most basic questions-- Who are these people? Why are they here? What are they like? Are they happy and healthy? Will they hurt us? Am I hurting them?

Several days ago, social media blog Mashable brought attention to Underheard in New York, a Twitter-based initiative that gives several of New York's homeless residents an opportunity to engage with people around the world. Through web 2.0, an otherwise voiceless population can open its isolated world to everyone else. Four homeless men: Danny, Derrick, Albert, and Carlos received prepaid cell phones with a month of unlimited texting to remain constantly connected with their Twitter feeds.

Each Tweeter brings his own unique perspective to the web.

Danny came to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1969. After working as a security guard, he became injured on the job and was unable to work or earn an income. He is hoping to receive social security benefits and has just completed the application process.

Derrick lost his job as an intake coordinator and was unable to find work. He spends his days job hunting and hopes that he can help guide other homeless individuals through the city's job hunting resources since he understands that many may be lost while looking for work.

Albert came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1992. He immigrated as an asylee and is waiting for permanent authorization to reside in the United States. He worked as a welder until 2008 when he was laid off and has been unable to find another job. He attends chef school and hopes to get a certificate. He also has a 10 year old son.

Carlos grew up in Queens and worked as a paralegal for 26 years. After being injured by a drunk driver, he was left unable to work. While in the hospital, he lost his apartment and was unsure where to go after. He has a masters degree and hopes to start a credit collection business. His friends and family have no idea that he is homeless.

Underheard in New York redefines how society approaches documentaries. While productions, books, and other media frequently require a substantial budget, Twitter allows anyone to share their experiences with limited funds. As individuals, nonprofits, and businesses, it's possible for us to find out-of-the box ways of Tweeting.

Photo Credit.