Social media has revolutionised the way that welfare organisations, the general public and homeless people are connecting.
A significant demographic of the homeless population are engaged on the internet and through mobile phones, which have allowed for increased access to support and emergency services, according to a new study from The University of Sydney.
The study involved interviewing 95 families experiencing homelessness, and revealed that 95% of participants owned a mobile phone and were considered essential they play a vital role in contacting emergency services, support services and medical assistance.
This research has recognised a government need to improve community phone and internet facilities.
As well as allowing for the direct connection of the homeless community, social media has also been vital to the operation of homeless welfare organisations, which has been exemplified by the work of Anonymous X.
Anonymous X is a charitable organisation operating in Melbourne established in 2013 which provides support services to the homeless, in part through their strong presence on social media.
Their organisation: provides educational services, collects and organises public donations and also has an outreach program in which they go out into areas of the city and deliver required goods to homeless through a direct order service.
Facebook is “the main way” that smaller charitable organisations stay in contact, says Brittany Lucas-Stewart, operator of the Anonymous X Facebook page.
Using social media, Anonymous X has been able to coordinate with other charity organisations such as Orange Sky and St Vincent de Paul’s in order to meet every fortnight at central public places to provide more essential services to the homeless.
Anonymous X’s main aim is to use social media to “break the stigma” that the general public holds of the homeless population, particularly involving drugs, alcohol and mental illness, says Lucas-Stewart.
“Just because they’re living on the street, they’re not alcoholics, (or) drug addicts.”
This stereotype has also been challenged by the Council to Homeless Persons, as representative Ian Gough says, “There’s a number of factors that influence homelessness; rising rent, poor job market, Centrelink incomes too low, and a range of social issues.”