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Homeless IT worker stays connected with mobile phone

Categories: Community, Science & Technology

 Staying connected to the Internet is crucial for many homeless people, especially those who make their livings online. (iStock)Adelle Hartley may be homeless on the streets of Sydney, but she's got a place to call her own on the internet -- and according to the unemployed web developer, that's what matters most.

"I'd rather be connected than have a place to stay," said Hartley, 39, to 9News in Australia this week. "It's not that expensive to have a mobile these days."

Along with her cell phone, Hartley owns a laptop that she uses to update her website and Facebook page.
The computer science and mathematics graduate had been working in Sydney for 10 years when her contracts dried up six months ago.

Now, she begs on the street for food, change, work and Wi-Fi.

"Homeless C# / SQL developer," reads one of her quirky sandwich boards. "Will code 4 latte."

"Generally people are nice, and every so often I get approached by someone with some freelance work," she tells 9News.

But not everybody is so kind. Hartley admits that the image of a homeless person using a mobile phone is confusing, and even enraging to some.

She spoke of being yelled at by one man who saw her using the phone, and a quick Twitter search shows that this sentiment pervades.

Despite the fact a basic pay-as-you-go model at most Canadian variety stores costs less than $30, people were quick to cry foul over seeing someone with a piece of technology in hand beg for change.

Many individuals who work with homeless people say that digital technology can act as a lifeline for these individuals.
"Someone who is homeless may not have extensive access to digital technologies but is nonetheless deeply affected by the pervasiveness of such technologies in everyday life," wrote the authors of a 2011 Georgia Tech University and IBM paper focused on the topic.

"In everything from maintaining social connections to friends and family, to online registration and verification for social services, to finding and applying for employment and housing, the presence and necessity of interacting with technology has real consequences - and opportunity - for the urban homeless."

And using the public computers at a library or community center can also be challenging for street people, according to research conducted on homeless young people and technology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"I don't really like going places to use computers. It's just uncomfortable to have nine cameras staring at you like 'What are you doing with this computer?'" one person told the study's author, Jill Palzkill Woelfer.
Woelfer later writes that society places barriers in front of homeless people who want -- and need -- to use technology.

In an interview with in 2010, 28-year-old Kristen (no last name given) credits a cell phone from helping her fight off an attempted rape.

"It's scary out there," she admits. "Taking small comforts through technology can mean more than most people know."

Have you ever seen somebody on the street with a cell phone or other personal technology? Does it bother you?

Tags: POV

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