By Kevin O'Keefe

Twitter enables me to help homeless woman in Chicago

Before Twitter, how could I sitting in an office in Seattle’s Pioneer Square yesterday exchange a note with a homeless person in Chicago and help them today from my home on Bainbridge Island? I couldn’t.

A story by Deborah Donovan in yesterday’s Chicago Daily Herald put me in touch with AnnMarie Walsh, (@padschicago), a 41 year old homeless woman.

Walsh suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome because of abuse and a rheumatoid problem that makes it difficult to stand for long. She became homeless after being divorced and losing her job with a mail order pharmacy.

Walsh began using the Internet at the at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Chicago. She wanted to help others understand people who are homeless through tweeting and posting on other social media sites.

They need to sit down and talk to someone who is homeless once in a while and find out more of the story. Most of them think that homeless people are all criminals, on drugs, alcoholics. They think we don’t try to get out of homelessness and that we aren’t successful at anything. Some (homeless people) have college degrees and because of the economy got laid off…….I’ll comment that I’m thinking about a homeless person who I met. One guy was hit by a train in Arlington Heights. I think of him sometimes. I have a picture that I downloaded off a website,” she said. “Or I’ll meet somebody on the street who’s homeless with a walker and cardboard strips attached to his feet — in the winter. I’ll tweet a picture of this man’s feet. It’s heartbreaking.

It was through a gathering for Twitter users that Walsh found transitional housing at Deborah’s Place, which offers housing for homeless women with disabilities.

Audrey Thomas, executive director of Deborah’s Place told Donovan how Walsh uses social media to seek resources and build a community of support for other homeless people.

…[S]he talks about the issue of homelessness. People can understand it’s not a character trait, not a personality type. It’s an experience. Anyone of us could have a series of unfortunate events. And they can recover, move on.”

Social media is empowering, allowing homeless people to help each other, rather than be at the mercy of an organization or agency.

Yesterday morning I shared via Twitter that Twitter had enabled Walsh, a homeless person, to be an agent for help and change. Yesterday afternoon Walsh thanked me, to which I tweeted back thank you for the inspiration.

I was inspired enough by Walsh to find her Pads Chicago’s Blog :The Voice of the Chicagoland Homeless Community.

On the site I found that one way to help her was to add value to Walsh’s Starbucks card. This morning I added $15.

Maybe you’d consider helping Walsh like this as well. You’ll not only be helping her, but the other homeless people Walsh helps through her social media efforts.

For those of you in Chicago, Walsh will tell her story of homelessness at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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