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Why Do Homeless People Have Cell Phones?

by | Jul 2, 2020 | Formation, Homelessness, Reflections | 2 comments

Seeing a homeless person with a cell phone raises eyebrows for some people. An often unspoken question also seems to be in people’s minds. Why would a homeless person even need a phone? I have heard people question how can homeless people afford a phone in the first place? The following is a  first-hand account of the importance of a cell phone to a homeless person. I hope you will find it as helpful as I did.

First a word about the author…Jocelyn Figueroa studied Creative Non-Fiction at The New School and is a blogger and freelance writer based out of New York City. Formerly homeless, she launched her own blog discussing shelter life in New York City. Today, Jocelyn is on a mission to build connections through storytelling and creative writing.

Some excerpts from her moving account…

This is what social media did for me — during and after homelessness. I know it also does the same for the hundreds of homeless people who frequent, share, and seek comfort within our online support group.

Before homeless was my reality, I was a college student, renting in Manhattan, experiencing the privileges of a scholarship and various grants that makes my now, Creative Writing degree, a reality.

However, I did not know then the extent of how vicious a landlord could be. Especially a landlord who happened to own property in a neighborhood that is now popular and growing. Housed turned into not-housed rather quickly as my landlord doubled our rent. He made every attempt to get us out, including putting a hole in our living room wall, and turning off our utilities.

In these moments of terror, it was social media — but more importantly, real people, who came to my rescue — or at least genuinely tried to. It was on Reddit where I received dozens of replies about where I should go, what I should do, who I should complain to. I needed answers, and I got a lot of them, through individuals with lived experience. Although they were not lawyers or social workers, they were me, once, and were ultimately on my side.

It was later that I shared on Tumblr about the challenges I was up against — survival, shelter life, recovery, and more. And, it was through social media that I connected with people, all over the world. They were suddenly now listening to my story, they wanted to help, and asked to help, however they could.

Through Tumblr, a stranger sent me $20 when I needed to buy groceries. It was on Reddit that a stranger bought me socks off my Amazon wish list, and a pair of boots. On Discord, a social media platform for gamers, I found friends and allies. It’s where I found emotional comfort when I needed it most.

And more often than not, I’m seeking a friend who understands, who has been there before, who shares in my fears and has lived in my reality. In our case, we‘ve made many friends who laugh, live, and cry with us every day in our support group.

I hope these excerpts give pause to the questions.

2 Comments

  1. Dee Mansi

    Yes. I’ve also heard similar criticism of the poor in developing countries. What people don’t see is the mpesa system (Kenyan example) ) for buying and selling services safely. It opens a way for people to move out of poverty.

    Reply
  2. Claire Sweeney

    Thank you, Jocelyn, for sharing your experiences and for supporting people in similar situations. Thanks to Fr Michael for facilitating that. I admire you both for helping us to be aware of the sufferings of others and for the encouragement to stop judging others. It is such a foolish way to behave, to judge people and situations without having all the information. May we learn to be like Jesus, gentle and humble of heart.

    Reply

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