Homelessness: The Digital Divide and Food Insecurity

Post 2 by Alice Stollery

Need help for phone calls
PHOTO: A homeless man in Sydney CBD begs for help, clothes and access to a phone to make phone calls. Evidence of the digital divide experienced by the homeless. (Edwards 2008)

‘The importance of circumstance: Digital access and affordability for people experiencing homelessness’

Justine Humphry is a Lecturer of Cultural and Social Analysis at the University of Western Sydney and has highlighted the technological discrimination or ‘digital divide’ experienced by the homeless through her in depth study of the issue. Surprisingly, the study found that mobile ownership was not the problem, with 95% of participants owning a mobile handset. However, the homeless still face a number of barriers and digital challenges, such as, lack of security and replacing stolen handsets, affording credit to maintain the service, and lack of ability to recharge the battery. Due to this technological shift, alternative forms of communication such as public pay phones have also drastically decreased, creating further barriers for the homeless. Barriers continue to be built as digital gateways become commonplace in government services. With the inability to access these technologies, the homeless become further marginalised.

Reliable access to these technologies would assist the homeless in finding accommodation and employment, gaining new skills, maintaining personal and professional relationships and in contacting support and emergency services, acting as vital tools in assisting them out of homelessness. When compared to mainstream media articles from last week, this author has conducted a very credible and detailed investigation into the issue. All claims within the article are supported rather than hearsay, and with agendas aside, the article has been written for the sake of research and investigation. I think this is an incredibly interesting position on the issue and her research has uncovered some very surprising results. I would like to further investigate the role technology plays in the lives of the homeless and see what other studies have been conducted in this area.


‘Is something better than nothing? Food insecurity and eating patterns of young people experiencing homelessness’

Published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, this peer-reviewed article explores an alternative position on the issue of homeless youth. The authors, a number of expert health professionals, explore the issue of food insecurity and the eating patterns of young people affected by homelessness. The study found that due to reliance on food relief services homeless youth were not meeting recommended servings of major food groups, such as fruit, vegetables, breads and cereals. Healthy food items are often more expensive meaning homeless youth consume high levels of processed, sugary foods and drinks. The study highlighted the inadequate food access for homeless youth and the associated stress, anxiety and persistent hunger they currently suffer.

Adolescents have high nutritional needs and inadequate nutrition for this particular age bracket will affect growth and development and their ability to maintain an active life. This is a large problem considering half of all homeless people in Australia are under the age of 25. The article underlined the need to improve food access and quality for homeless youth and acknowledged that specialist services currently lack the required training to meet their nutritional needs. Once youth have been provided with shelter, food insecurity persists as they are living independently from a young age without the adequate life skills to care for themselves. Greater support is also required in this area.


References

Humphry, J. 2014, ‘The importance of circumstance: digital access and affordability for people experiencing homelessness’, Australian Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, vol. 2, no. 3.

Crawford, B., Yamazaki, R., Franke, E., Amanatidis, S., Ravulo, J. & Torvaldsen, S. 2015, ‘Is something better than nothing? Food insecurity and eating patterns of young people experiencing homelessness’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 39, pp. 350-54

Edwards, M. 2008, Rudd seeks ‘new approach’ to homelessness, ABC Nsws, viewed 12 August 2016, <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-01-28/rudd-seeks-new-approach-to-homelessness/1025274&gt;.

 

 

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