The impact of new power in fighting homelessness

by annelaurenceb on April 29, 2015 - 9:13am

In her article "Fighting Homelessness, One Smartphone at a Time" published in the New York Times on April 15, 2015, the author Claire Cain Miller describes a situation that happened last month in California. A lady called Holly Leonard describes how she finally, after years of homelessness, was able to find an apartment using her new smartphone. But how can a homeless person even own a smartphone? This is the purpose of a San Jose non-profit called the Community Technology Alliance who got Google to give her that gift. The CTA is an organization whose goal is to bring technologies into communities in order to give them the power to fight against homelessness (Here is a link to their website, which is very interesting in my opinion since it is so new and unusual: For this program, called the smartphone giveaway program, the help of technology companies located in the Silicon Valley was requested, and since they have the resources to do so, they started to give smartphones in order to fight against poverty and homelessness.

In the article, the lady that was able to find her new apartment only because she had a smartphone, as she said there was no other way before and that she could not find solutions. In the last years, she went in women shelters and she even served some time in jail. However, with her new smartphone, she found a place to live by consulting Craigslist. Craigslist is a classified advertisement website where you can find ads about opportunities of employment, vehicles, housing and other things for sale. It is the population that makes the website functional. Everyone can post ads on the website, and if you want to buy something you can directly contact the person that is selling it.

This measure to fight against homelessness can be considered, in my opinion, in the category of new power. Contrarily to old power, new power is made by many instead of being held by a few. It is open and its mission is to share the information as easily as possible for everyone to have access to it. However, sometimes the information can be distorted and it is not always positive and it has some weaknesses.

The Community Technology Alliance among with giants of the technology industry from the Silicon Valley such as Google are promoting this use of new power. By distributing phone, this gives to the homeless people the ability to participate in this new concept and to join and share information on technological platforms. Regarding Craigslist, which is what got a home to Mrs Leonard, it is another perfect example of what new power is. That website satisfies the needs and demands of the population that is using it and therefore everyone is contributing to the success of that process.

However, new power is not necessarily the perfect solution in that case, but I believe it is a good start. The purpose is to help the homeless to find a home and get out of poverty, however giving them smartphones is not a guarantee of that. This may be seen as a marketing strategy from some companies, as they would look good if they gave to charities. Even though some may say smartphones are as important as food and clothes in order for one person to survive in the modern society, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, did not completely agree with that. He even argued that his computers (the PCs), "are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs" (Miller, 2015). This solution is definitely not the one that will eradicate completely homelessness, but it is a good start and it may help to improve the situation through the use of new power. By understanding better over the next years how new power is working, this has the potential to use it in a way that would be very beneficial.

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