Parking-ticket bot will now help homeless people get benefits

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Stanford computer science student Joshua Browder, whose DoNotPay bot helps you fight parking tickets in London and New York (it's estimated to have overturned $4M in tickets to date) has a new bot in the offing: a chatbot that helps newly homeless people in the UK create and optimise their applications for benefits. Read the rest

Homeless in Seattle: five essays

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Peter Wieben's five-part series on homelessness in Seattle doesn't try to capture any kind of overarching truth or objective stock-taking of the problem (Seattle is now notorious for its tent cities). Rather, it consists of a series of sharply observed, dryly recounted personal stories from the people he meets, which range from heartbreaking to infuriating.

The conversion of shelter into an asset class has incentivized local governments to make it more expensive, which is a disaster for nearly everyone, except literal rentiers. Combine that with the recasting of poverty as a moral failing and the disappearance of stable employment opportunities and you're well on the way to turning cities into armed standoffs between the fingernail-clinging haves and the have-nots, whose misery only serves to spur the haves to cling harder.

Wieben beautifully captures the difficulty of confronting homelessness in all our lives: the combination of mistrust and sympathy, empathy and helplessness, frustration and affection.

You’d Have to be Crazy (Part I) [Peter Wieben/The Awl]

You’d Have to be Crazy (Part II) [Peter Wieben/The Awl]

You’d Have to be Crazy (Part III) [Peter Wieben/The Awl]

You’d Have to be Crazy (Part IV) [Peter Wieben/The Awl]

You’d Have to be Crazy (Part V) [Peter Wieben/The Awl]

(via Metafilter) Read the rest

The world's richest 62 people have as much wealth as half the rest

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Just 62 people own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world together. Of this elite, 52 are men. Moreover, the richest 1 percent now own more than the other 99 percent.

The numbers come from UK-based anti-poverty charity Oxfam, which reports rising inequality worldwide just in time for this year's Davos.

But the divisions go far beyond those that exist between the haves and have-nots. In the Middle East, the divide between Shi'ites and Sunnis has reached crisis point, with Iran and Saudi Arabia jostling openly for influence in a region reeling from war and the barbarism of Islamic extremists.

The conflicts there have spilled over into Europe, causing deep ideological rifts over how to handle the worst refugee crisis since World War Two and - with Britain threatening to leave the European Union - raising doubts about the future of Europe's six-decade push towards ever closer integration.

The shock emergence of Donald Trump as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has exposed a gaping political divide in the United States, stirring anxiety among Washington's allies at a time of global turmoil.

Read the rest

Upvote this: Teach kids in underserved communities how to code with Minecraft

Camp Minecraft. The goal: Bring it to more kids whose families can't pay.

LA Makerspace co-founder Tara Tiger Brown shares a project that her kid-friendly maker workshop is trying to make a reality.

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Give me blood, cash, or jail time, Alabama judge orders defendants

Photo: The Montgomery Advertiser

What's worse than courts demanding that poor people pay extortionate fines to the state for minor offense? Asking them to literally pay with their own blood.

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Full-time minimum wage workers can’t comfortably afford a 1-bedroom apartment anywhere in America

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The National Low-Income Housing Coalition has released a new report with a startling fact Read the rest

Portraits of homeless people using libraries

Libraries, "the last bastion of democracy," are a haven for America's 500,000 homeless people, where literature, Internet access, and nonfiction can come together to provide respite from the relentless brutality of life on the streets. Read the rest

Walmart holds food drive...for Walmart employees (again!)

Once again, a Walmart store has set out a collection box for food donations to support its own employees, who are paid so little that they depend upon social assistance (and public generosity) to survive. Read the rest

Shower-bus for homeless people rolls in San Francisco

Lava Mae is a startup that renovates donated, surplus San Francisco city buses, fitting them out with accessible showers that can be brought to homeless people around town. Read the rest

Charity collection-boxes shaped like life-sized homeless people

The Dutch homelessness charity Badt dressed mannequins as homeless people, sawed coin-slots in their foreheads, and seeded them around Amsterdam with signs soliciting donations. It's a clever campaign, but it says something a little unpleasant, in that we are apparently more willing to give money to a doll with a slot in its forehead than an actual homeless person. Read the rest

Fighting homelessness by giving homeless people houses

A program in Salt Lake City decided that it would be smarter -- and more humane -- to spend $11K/year each to house 17 chronically homeless people and provide them with social workers than it would be to waste the average of $16,670/year per person to imprison them and treat them at emergency rooms. As Nation of Change points out, this commonsense, humane and economically sound way of dealing with homelessness works, unlike the savage approaches taken by other cities (like the Waikiki rep Tom Bowker who smashed homeless peoples' carts with a sledgehammer, or cities like Tampa, which banned feeding homeless people).

Here's more on Utah's Housing First program. Read the rest

Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide 2013

Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!

Electronic Frontier Foundation Could there be a year that's more relevant to the EFF? As Edward Snowden has made abundantly clear, there is a titantic, historic battle underway to determine whether the Internet is there to liberate us or to enslave us. EFF's on the right side of history, and I figure giving them all I can afford is a cheap hedge against the NSA's version of the future. —CD

Creative Commons CC continues to make a difference -- this year, they released the 4.0 version of their flexible licenses, a major milestone. More than anyone else, CC has reframed the way we talk about creativity and copyright in the Internet era, providing practical, easy-to-use tools to make it possible for creators and audiences to work together in a shared mission of creating and enjoying culture.—CD

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Homlessness and technological literacy: the Tenderloin Technology Lab

Wired profiles Darrell Pugh, a formerly homeless man who teaches people who have no homes or are otherwise in economically precarious position how to use networks and computers, at the Tenderloin Technology Lab in San Francisco. It's an amazing story and draws an important connection between technological literacy and the ability to live a full life in modern society. Pugh's own perspective on this ("Educating myself and passing what I know onto other people so they can try, that’s all part of what I think we need to do. We shouldn’t hold back our knowledge from each other. We should share it so we’re all better.") is fantastic. Read the rest

Poor white women and a public health mystery

Over the past 18 years the life expectancy for white women who didn't finish high school has dropped precipitously. Today, those women can expect to die five years earlier than their counterparts a generation ago. It's one of the biggest magnitude losses in life expectancy ever recorded, and nobody knows what's causing it. At the American Prospect, Monica Potts reports on scientists efforts to untangle the knot of correlations at the heart of this public health mystery and tells the story of one woman, Crystal Wilson, whose life and death mirrors the statistics. Read the rest

Help make Abercrombie and Fitch synonymous with homelessness

As you know, Abercrombie and Fitch is a horrible shitshow of a company whose owner refuses to make large sized clothes so that "unattractive people" can't wear them, and who burns surplus clothing rather than donating it to charity to keep their clothes off poor peoples' backs. So Gkarber has set out to make the brand synonymous with homelessness, by clearing out thrift shops' supply of A&F and bringing it to skid row and giving it to homeless people. He'd like you to participate by clearing out your closets and donating any A&F to your local homeless charity..

Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment #FitchTheHomeless Read the rest

Guerrilla Benchers replace street furniture removed to discourage homeless people

The Camden Council in London removed many public benches, apparently in an effort to chase out vagrants. A group of Guerrilla Benchers were offended by this, and responded by reinstalling their own benches on the sites of the old street furniture.

Camden council in London decided to remove several public benches, for the benefit of the public last year. Along with a scheme to convert all bus stops to be fitted with un-usable benches. The basic plan seems to be to move on undesirables and homeless people away as they don't fit in with the aesthetics of the area. Rather than addressing these problems they have taken the usual tactic of moving them on and hoping that someone else will deal with them...

...Due to the colossal and inorganised nature of local councils, and their cunning disguises the guerrilla benchers were not approached or questioned by anyone as they installed the benches.

Unfortunately however the drills ran out of batteries just after the first bench had been installed. In true workman style it was obviously time for a fry-up breakfast and cup of tea whilst the batteries re-charged.

Guerrilla Benching (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

3 things that keep poor kids out of the sciences

There is some truth to the American ideal of meritocracy. But there's a lot of myth, as well. Biologist Danielle Lee describes her experience coaching poor kids in St. Louis on science fair projects — an activity that often becomes a stepping stone to a career in the sciences. But, for the kids Lee met, intelligence and a good idea aren't enough to overcome the institutional barriers working against them. This is how discrimination happens. It's not simple and easy to fix and it isn't pretty to watch. Read the rest

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