Documenting Homeless on Sacramento Streets

An excellent idea as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

Are posting photographs of homeless men and women to Facebook and Twitter a social justice movement in a social media world? Is it journalism? Or is it a public shaming of the city’s down-and-out?

Sacramento’s homeless population may not be exploding, but it is becoming more visible. Even for people living in midtown and downtown – neighborhoods affected by the homeless for years – the issue seems more prominent.

Sean and Jackie O’Connell say that’s what drove them to start the Sac Homeless Report a few weeks ago.

Since mid-June, the couple has been posting to Facebook and Twitter photographs of homeless men and women sleeping, sitting and panhandling on central city streets. They sometimes try to speak with those people to learn how they ended up homeless. Most of the posts tag prominent city leaders, including Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg and Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents the central city.

The O’Connells have lived on the grid since 2009, the past two years near 17th and X streets. Last winter, a small homeless camp set up in the alley behind their home. When a fence alongside their home was being repaired, the work created a temporary opening that enabled homeless people to use the O’Connells’ property as a bathroom.

Like a lot of other urban dwellers, they’ve found men passed out in front of their home. But for Jackie, the tipping point came last month, when a guy threw garbage on their lawn. When she confronted him, she said he told her to “shut the (expletive) up.”

“It’s a powerless feeling,” said Sean, who cares for the couple’s 1-year-old daughter. “It became very frustrating. Now we’re trying to take our frustration and turn it into something positive.”

They say their goal is to bring attention to the real-world struggles of Sacramento’s homeless. They’re trying to be respectful with their posts, but they believe that to have an impact, their observations need to be raw….

Their social experiment is in the infant stage and has just a few dozen followers on Facebook and Twitter. Find them on Twitter at @SacHomelessRpt and at “Sac Homeless Report” on Facebook.


About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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