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A Homeless Workshifting Story

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computer-broken.jpgHere in Orlando, I am very proud to sit on the Board at Rock For Hunger, a nonprofit that helps those in the homeless community get back on their feet. One of the programs that we have started to help with building community relations and build jobs is a street paper. This model has proven to be very successful and some of you may be familiar with StreetWsie in Chicago or the Homeless Voice in South Florida. Our version is called Talk For Hunger and has been a great way for homeless individuals to feel like they are a part of something that is really going to help their community.

So what does this have to do with workshifting?

While working on an issue in the spring I turned to one of the more sociable homeless, Jeff, and asked him if he wanted to contribute an article about the homeless and technology. After a few of our conversations it was evident that the homeless were just as tuned into technology as we were, just without the luxury of owning most of the tech toys.
Jeff told me that any homeless person in Orlando that had ID and no outstanding balance could have a library card, which entitled them to time on the public computers. This time was spent doing many activities that we take for granted, from checking the news and weather to reconnecting with family members and friends via social networks.
Some were even attempting to start their own business, find contract work or rebuild their lives via research, personal branding and financial education.

After learning of some cases of our local homeless using technology to either work, or find work, I started to think about some of the luxuries that we take for granted workshifting and how we can help local communities improve by advancing the technologies of the local homeless and poverty communities.

Donations

This is the easiest thing to do and starts in your own office. Instead of pawning off your 2-3 year old laptop on Craigslist for $50, bring it to a local homeless organization and see how that laptop can help get someone a job, start a business or be used by the organization.

Data Storage

We backup (or hopefully backup) all that we have on our computers to hard drives and in the cloud. For the homeless, they carry most of what they own in a backpack and papers are easily lost or stolen. Imagine having to retype your resume every time you needed a copy due to not having a way to save it. Think about thumb drives or education on cloud servers so the next time they need to reference a document, they can login and print, email or upload.

Mobile Phones and Smart Phones

Many homeless are very savvy with text messaging and using phones to get online to check bank accounts, social security status and sports scores. Most of the phones are pay as you go with very limited data plans. Anyone with ideas to improve this situation are greatly appreciated.
I hope this was a good introduction to how the homeless community is using technology to workshift. In the future I hope to expand more and talk about how nonprofits are teaching and leveraging new rules of “workshifting” for the community they serve, their volunteers and how their organizations are run.

Photo by: mrtruffle

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  • ajleon.myopenid.com

    Hey Greg, thank you so much for this post! Very thoughtful & inspiring :)

  • Jim

    This is a great piece. I am finishing up a video/website for a homeless recovery center in Longview,WA…

  • Greg

    @ajleon – thanks for dropping by and saying hello.
    @jim – please keep in touch and let me know about your documentary. Learning from others is a great way for all of us to grow!

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