Last week Nicky and myself delivered a training workshop with St Basils, a Birmingham-based charity that supports homeless young people. They wanted to know how they could use the free social media tools on offer to raise awareness of the work they are doing and increase engagement.
As part of the preparation for the training I searched the web to see what other homeless charities and groups were doing online and how they were using platforms such as twitter, facebook and youtube to promote their cause to raise awareness.
During this research, what I noticed generally was that the USA was more outspoken and were really embracing all the tools at their disposal to tell stories, talk about their work and were more highly engaged with their audiences than the UK.
So without further ado, here is a link round-up of some of the work that is being done online to help homeless people, and although they relate to the subject of homelessness, you may find some inspiration (and maybe a few things not to do!) for your online campaign.
We are visible (USA)
We Are Visible was started by Carey Fuller, (@careyfuller) who is a single mother of two and who lived out of a camper van for 6 years. With nearly 3,500 Likes on Facebook, and nearly 3,000 followers on twitter (@wearevisible), they use the platforms to empower people to learn how to use social media and give practical advice on issues that homeless people face on a day to day basis. Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal) is also involved. Fifteen years ago he lived homeless on the streets of Hollywood.
The video below is worth a watch. In it he describes how social media helps build a supportive community.
Carey and Mark also manage Invisible People TV. @invisiblepeople has a mighty 15,300 followers and over 6,200 Likes on Facebook. With Invisible People TV Mark hits the road and speaks to the homeless people he meets along the way. He interviews them and helps them to share their stories with a worldwide audience. Here Catherine shares a story she has written, saying ‘There’s two sides to every story’.
On both We Are Visible and Invisible People’s Facebook groups people use the platform to ask questions, such as “how do you prepare for winter?” They introduce new people and hold Q&A sessions. People ask for help (someone needed a new pair of shoes) and advice and they get answers from the community there, and also post relevant news stories.
For example, big in the news last week was the story of Sly Stone from Sly and the Family Stone, who is now homeless and living in a van.
Underheard NYC (USA)
Underheard NY (@underheardinny) was an initiative run earlier this year to help four homeless New Yorkers speak for themselves via twitter and sms. They are Danny, Derrick, Albery and Carlos. Each man was given a mobile phone, which they used for tweeting and making connections with people all over the world. Very quickly they formed a support network and some amazing stories came out of it.
Salvation Army (UK)
For such a large organisation the Salvation Army’s make a limited use of social media. They have a youtube channel with 4 videos, which are delivered with a news item feel. I understand that they are dealing with sensitive issues, but they must have so much going on around the UK; they could share their news in a more dynamic way and engage far more people with a few simple changes.
For example, what events have they got going on? Who is there? What are they doing? How about a few twitpics, some audio interviews, a bit of live reporting now and again. What about the history of the Salvation Army, they must have so many stories to share!
They are on Facebook and have got over 2,300 Likes, but there are no updates, no engagement, no directions to resources that could help people. They are also on twitter with 2,800 followers, but they are not very active, and tend to ‘broadcast’ rather than engage.
Shelter Scotland (UK)
They are also on Facebook with nearly 2,000 Likes and are updating regularly. They have been nominated for a Social Buzz award for their Foursquare campaign and have almost 3,000 followers on twitter, update frequently and engage with their followers.
Crisis have a Facebook page with 4,700 ‘likes’ which they make good use of, using it to galvanise support with links to e-petitions and local events. The Crisis website also has an Our Impact page which has videos telling the stories of people affected by homelessness and how Crisis has assisted them, but as these are on their website and not shared or shareable (i.e. using YouTube) their reach is likely to be limited.
Unheard Voices (UK)
Unheard Voices is a Glasgow based theatre group whose cast members are made up from people who have been affected by homelessness. They share their stories through a series of short 10 minute plays.
The Sock Mob (UK)
The Sock Mob aka Unseen Tours is a London-based group which offers unique tours of London. The guides are homeless people who have been trained to lead the tours and they weave their perspective and personal experiences of homelessness into stories. Not your usual London tour!
The Elephant In The Room (UK)
This isn’t a related to a homeless charity or group, this is run by Mind the mental health charity and it demonstrates a very interesting way to engage using Facebook. The idea is that you tag yours and your friends’ facebook photos, which will in turn, lead people to the Elephant In The Room page. It’s a very simple way of empowering people who are suffering from mental health to make the ‘elephant in the room’ their friend, and at the same time raise awareness of issues that friends and family may not be aware of.
I hope you have found these links useful. It’s always interesting to see how groups embrace the use of social media to further their aim and share their stories and engage people both locally and world wide.