75% of homeless youth use Facebook and Twitter

Homeless Person

A recent study found that 75% of homeless young people use social networks to stay connected to others – a number comparable to that of university and college students.

The study, led by the University of Alabama’s Rosanna Guadagno, surveyed 237 college and 65 homeless young people that were an average of 19 years old.  A vast majority of both groups reported using social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook for at least one hour each day.

Over 90 percent of college students reported using social media programs for at least one hour every day.

Guadagno makes the argument that a “digital divide” in Internet access should be re-thought:

“To the extent that our findings show a ‘digital divide’ between undergraduates at a four-year university and age-matched participants in a program for homeless young adults, it is mainly in types of Internet use and not access to the Internet, and that divide is relatively minor.  Since it is clear that the proportions of undergraduates and homeless young adults accessing social networking sites are similar, we assert that the term digital divide is not descriptive of the young adult population.”

Another recent study from the University of Dayton found that homeless youth are closely linked to social media in their daily lives. They don’t only use such networks for social contact and equality, but as a means to solve practical daily issues.

Art Jipson, the head of the Dayton study, found that the homeless use social media as a place where all people are treated “equally,” and through a series of interviews, discovered that it can also be a medium to find social services, somewhere to sleep and their next hot meal.

I’d be interested to know if any similar research has occurred in the UK with the ever increasing group of sofa surfer teenagers.

Councillor in attack on food bank

Councillor Chris Steward

A senior York politician has sparked a furious row by saying there is no real poverty in Britain and people should not donate to food banks.

Chris Steward, a Conservative councillor, said living standards had surged, that there was no need for food banks, that they were an insult to starving people around the world, and that donating to them allowed recipients to spend more money on alcohol and cigarettes.

But his comments have been condemned by political opponents and The Trussell Trust, which runs 275 banks nationwide.  Chris Mould, the charity’s executive chairman, said more than 10,000 professionals nationwide were referring people to food banks and said: “He is making totally inappropriate assertions which I challenge him to back up with proper evidence.”

Coun Steward said on twitter that it insulted those in poverty to claim it existed in the UK. Asked to elaborate, he said Britain had relative poverty, like every country, but not absolute poverty.

He said:

“We have lots of poor people, but living standards have surged over the years. There is certainly no need for food banks; no-one in the UK is starving and I think food banks insult the one billion in the world that go to bed hungry every day and ignore the fact a child dies of hunger every three seconds.”

“The fact some give food to food banks, merely enables people who can’t budget (an issue where schools should do much more and I have said the council should) or don’t want to, to have more money to spend on alcohol, cigarettes etc.”

Mr Mould said Coun Steward was “poorly informed” and said living standards for people on low incomes had declined in recent years, with heating costs rising by 65 per cent in five years and the cost of basic food rising by’ 35 per cent. He said it was stereotyping to say those on low incomes were using money unwisely, saying there were many reasons why people found themselves in crisis.

Chris Mould said:

“He says there is no need for food banks; I am astonished by his assertion. What does he know? Where is his evidence? More than 10,000 front-line professionals, week in week out, are referring people they are trying to help to food banks.  They are seeing people from Cornwall to Inverness, York to Liverpool, and in increasing numbers they are referring people to food banks.  I am talking from an evidence-base of 10,000 care professionals who would argue with him. It is astonishing he would make an assertion like that.”

food bank

Mr Mould said nobody suggested people should not be distressed or outraged by unnecessary hunger elsewhere in the world, but said:

“It is clear that people in the UK who we meet have been going without meals when they arrive at food banks. They are going to bed hungry too. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but one of the most unequal in terms of income distribution in Europe.”

I found it amazing in this period of recession where most weeks there are major news articles on increases in poverty in the UK that a local politician would go as far to state there is no need for food banks.  As someone who has worked with young people and families for nearly a decade, I’ve helped them access food banks many times – they are incredibly valuable local tools.

What do you think?  Was Councillor Steward right to say we don’t need food banks?

———————– UPDATE ———————–

The York Press are now reporting that:

The York councillor who sparked an angry backlash by saying food banks were not needed has said he will visit one to see how they work.

Chris Steward, chairman of York Conservatives and councillor for Rural West York, made the offer after he came under fire for comments revealed in The Press on Thursday. Coun Steward claimed there was no real poverty in the UK.

He has since said on twitter that he would be happy to visit a food bank to work a shift.

York Labour councillor Dafydd Williams also yesterday invited Coun Steward to visit the York food bank at Gateway Church in Acomb, and called the councillor’s comments “ill-informed”. Coun Steward declined to add to his comments on twitter when contacted by The Press.

God Doesn’t Need Your Good Works … But Your Neighbour Does

Tullian Tchividjian has written a great post on how God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbour does:

So, I’m all for effort, fighting sin, resisting temptation, mortification, working, activity, putting off, and putting on, as long as we understand that it is not our work for God, but God’s work for us, that has fully and finally set things right between God and sinners. Any talk of sanctification that leaves the impression that our efforts secure more of God’s love, itself needs to be mortified. We must always remind Christian’s that the good works which necessarily flow from faith are not part of a transaction with God–they are for others. The Reformation was launched by (and contained in) the idea that it’s not doing good works that make us right with God. Rather it’s the one to whom righteousness has been received that will do good works.

There’s so much more that can be said, but I hope this serves to clarify that my understanding of the Christian life is not “let go and let God” but “trust God and get going”–trust that, in Christ, God has settled all accounts between him and you and then “get going” in sacrificial service to your wife, your husband, your children, your friends, your enemies, and strangers.

Read the rest here.

Secret Santa: CBS On The Road Video

Here’s a CBS News story of a secret Santa. I’ve seen reports of this businessman man’s way of spreading Christmas cheer before, but I loved the outcome on this one. (You’ll watch a 30 second advertisement, then the 3 minute video.)

I also love the news segment by Steve Hartman called “On the Road”. You can read or watch more of his Secret Santa stories here.

Books I have read: Screw Business as Usual by Richard Branson

Screw Business as Usual by Sir Richard Branson is a book I’ve taken a long time to read – grabbing time here and there over the last few months to read a chapter at a time.

The book in a superficial sense is just a huge 360 page PR leaflet – Branson is incredibly skilled at selling and promoting the Virgin brand, and as, in a sense, it is an autobiographical account of the way in which he’s done business it is of course a self-hyping book.  But if you can look beyond that, you can see that Sir Richard Branson truly believes that business can and should be done in a different way which benefits more people, whilst still being successful in our normal understanding of business.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in business, entrepreneurship, social issues, the future of capitalism, and the current challenges that face the world today.  Despite its playful title, it is idealistic but provides real-world examples, tells stories about famous people by focusing on their deeds not their fame, that is a highly entertaining read at the same time as dealing with challenging issues.

Branson builds a strong case for the business world’s potential to address social, economic, political and environmental issues by creating new business models and new ways of doing business. He does this not by some theoretical or pie-in-the sky fluff, but rather by stories of organizations and businesses that have done it. So his narrative is planted firmly in the real world and that is what is so inspiring and concrete – a departure from the usual nonsense that fills so many business, self-help and do-good tomes that fill the shelves these days.

Despite the underlying gravitas, the book is an easy read. The big picture is built by narrating stories about new organizations, leadership groups and businesses that are combining business and social causes. The cases are mostly related to what has been done in the Virgin Group, but also include stories about people that Branson knows personally, which includes a network of extraordinary breadth. He seems to be able to call virtually any world leader, politician, musician, movie producer or activist to form a team to deal with issues ranging from healthcare to poverty to environmental issues.

In essence he challenges us to live out our life as a global citizen, caring not just for ourselves but for others.  The book focuses on Virgin, and Virgin Unite – the charitable arm of Virgin, but it also includes inspiring UK companies such as Innocent Smoothies, John Lewis and the like.  There is a ground swell for more responsible leaders who actually do something for society instead of playing lip service to the idea.

If you enjoyed books like Tom Friedman’s “The World is Flat”, you would probably enjoy “Screw Business as Usual”. This might seem like an unlikely connection, but just as Tom Friedman travelled the world to illustrate how globalization was changing the way people do business, Branson does the same for “social entrepreneurship”, for want of a better term.

Nelson Mandela: Release

Nelson Mandela was arrested on the spot in which this sculpture sits in 1962. He spent 27 years in custody onRobben Island before becoming the President of South Africa. Titled Release, the sculpture is made of 50 steel beams and is between 21 and 31 feet high. Created by Marco Cianfanelli, a South African artist.