Those of us who live in urban areas are accustomed to the homeless population, some of whom use freeway offramps as a place to get creative with cardboard signs asking for money or other help. Because this isn’t anything out of the ordinary, regrettably the homeless population does often tend to become invisible.
One Houston college student, however, noticed the guy under the freeway offramp. And it just so happened that he was starting a fledgling Internet Marketing firm with his Dad. So Sean Dolan decided to use the power of the Internet to make positive strides towards homeless activism, and he’s doing it one bum (and T-shirt) at a time.
PimpThisBum.com chronicles the life-changing partnership among Sean, his father, and his homeless friend John (as well as John’s friends Tim and Bobby). Initially, Sean paid John $100 a day to hold a new sign with the PimpThisBum.com website address on it. The hope was to encourage folks to visit the site and recognize that The Homeless Sign Holder Guy is a real person with a real name and a real desire to turn his life around for good.
The site launched in late February, and in less than two months the website has received $50,000 in donations and national media attention. The Sunray Treatment Center in Seattle, WA has also offered John and Tim free treatment to help them get their lives back on track. You can stay up-to-date with John’s progress via the site, as well as the constantly updated PimpThisBum YouTube channel.
In a similar vein, Do1Thing is using photography and multimedia as a means to put a face (well, technically thousands of faces) on the issue of teen homelessness. They too have a shop as additional support for their cause, and are using their site as a platform to encourage participation in their project.
Both projects illustrate that seemingly insurmountable issues like homelessness can be addressed by an individual’s focus on an individual cause, and both projects show us that the power of Web 2.0 isn’t limited to democratizing restaurant reviews (though those of us who travel often do find that to be quite useful – so thanks, Yelpers). You don’t need a robust website to start this kind of effort, either: the T-shirt featured above, at right, is part of a personal project that a single person took on to help a homeless friend get back on his feet when he’s ready.
In a time when the economic forecast is grim and even the news anchors seem depressed, it’s just nice to know that there are some everyday folks out there using the tools they have toward a greater social good. Rock on, activists.