November 14 – 20 is National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week, and the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative is utilizing the event to push its newly-developed social media effort into the community.
Homeless Initiative Coordinator Amy Sawyer says the social media component is intended to strengthen the information network built by the Asheville Buncombe Homeless Coalition and to give a voice and source of resources to people in Asheville and Buncombe County who are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing homelessness.
“When people become homeless, they may be cut off from access to networks they previously relied on for information like neighbors and coworkers.” Sawyer says. “We hope social media can provide a means for some of the communication and resources needed by people experiencing homelessness.”
The initiative has already built up followers for its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/abhomeless) and blog (abhomeless.wordpress.com), both launched this fall, and is using those venues to get out information about events like the community book read and the calendar of events for National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week.
The initiative will also soon activate a Twitter account (twitter.com/abhomeless) and hashtag (#avlhmlss) that will not only give updated information to the public, but is intended to provide a virtual bulletin board of needs, services, and information to people seeking them out.
“Maybe a service provider is short on supplies that another has on hand,” Sawyer says .”Or someone has a job interview but needs a ride to get there. They will be able to put it out into the Twitter community.”
While the online venues will provide the community with opportunities to get involved in reducing and preventing problems associated with homelessness, Sawyer hopes the A-B Homeless Initiative blog will eventually become a place for people to contribute stories about their experiences being or becoming homeless. As part of the “Faces of Homelessness,” such stories would help Asheville, Buncombe County and the region at large have a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding homelessness.
“Some of the biggest obstacles to effectively addressing homelessness in many communities are the misconceptions people have about homelessness,” Sawyer says. “We see a big opportunity with the blog to get real stories out in front of the community.”