Yesterday morning, I received an e-mail from friend and fellow blogger Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv.
In short, he wrote:
"If you have a second can you write a few sentences as to why we (homeless people) should be on social media and/or blogging?"
I found the request intriguing for a number of reasons. And, as often is the case with me, it started an entire chain-reaction of thoughts racing through my mind.
People are, for the most part, social creatures. Feeling isolated or cut off from the rest of the world around is not something we are fond of. In fact, we require interaction with others of our species for the overall health of our psyche. This is why, in the penal system, being placed in "solitary confinement" is considered one of the harshest forms of punishment.
Social media such as Twitter, Facebook and so forth – as well as blogs – have become an overall part of human culture. Folks use these mediums to express their thoughts, opinions and ideas. They are just another method that we human beings use to communicate with others.
At present, there are who-knows-how-many blogs being authored by folks, from all around the world, who are either currently homeless or who, at one time in their lives, have experienced homelessness.
Personally, I think that’s a good thing. Furthermore, that’s how it should be. They are, after all, not any less a person because of their experiences with homelessness. Nor should we view them (or their opinions and thoughts) as any less valid than our own because of it.
Yet, there are those who do indeed think of the homeless as beneath notice. And because they see the condition rather than the person, they often times equate homelessness as a type of social inadequacy or a moral short-coming. Some even believe that because a person is homeless that they are somehow less intelligent than themselves.
I imagine there are those who might disagree with me, but I can think of numerous reasons why folks who are homeless (as well as those who are formerly homeless) should be using today’s social media as a method of discussing homelessness.
First, it shows that the homeless do have a genuine desire to be a part of their overall community.
Second, it gives us a glimpse into homelessness from the perspective of someone who personally knows the struggles faced by those who are without housing rather than the canned rhetoric so often posited by the "experts."
Third, it challenges the rest of us to face our own perceptions and misconceptions of the homeless – and, of course, our prejudices and egos.
Mostly though, I believe using social media as a tool for "exposing" homelessness serves to provide a voice for those who have, for so long, been hidden, silenced and marginalized by the rest of society.
As part of my reply to Mark, I wrote:
"If anything, the disdain and discourtesy that so many within the homeless population receive from housed members of society, makes me question our morality as a nation.
To view folks as less than ourselves based on their ‘residential status’ demeans the principles on which this nation was founded – namely that:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
I particularly note that nowhere in that sentence does it differentiate between those who have housing and those who do not."
Call me what you will but, when a person finds themselves becoming homeless, it’s because they’ve lost their home. It’s that simple. They haven’t lost their citizenship, their morality, their need for companionship. Nor have they lost their right to be treated with dignity and respect – something that’s inherent simply by virtue of being a person.
So, why should folks who are homeless "… be on social media and/or blogging?"
Quite simply: because they can be.