Laptops Give Hope to the Homeless
FILLMORE, California -- Happy Ivy doesn't have a bathroom or a kitchen in the bus he calls home. He does, however, have a video-editing station.
Living in a squalid, Woodstock-style bus parked in a Fillmore, California, orange grove, the 53-year-old homeless man charges a power generator from a utility shed and uses Wi-Fi from a nearby access point. From this humble camp, he's managed to run a 'round-the-clock internet television studio, organize grassroots political efforts, record a full-length album and write his autobiography, all while subsisting on oranges and avocados.
He claims he created one of the first handheld computer scanners and played a major part in the data transmission industry in the early 1990s. "I've always been trying to stay up on internet technology," Ivy said.
Ivy isn't the only homeless person who makes it a priority to keep gadgets handy even when a cooked meal is hard to come by.
Many of those now living without a permanent roof over their heads have cell phones in their pockets or laptop computers at their hips. While people living in shelters and alleys have found it difficult to cross social divides, the digital divide seems to disappear on the streets. Nearly all homeless people have e-mail addresses, according to Michael Stoops, director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "More have e-mail than have post office boxes," Stoops said. "The internet has been a big boon to the homeless."
Helping the homeless get e-mail addresses has been a priority for years at shelters across the country. And in an age when most every public library in the nation offers internet access, the net has proven a perfect communication tool for those without a firm real-world address.