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A Homeless Man’s Facebook Mission

December 17, 2010

A Homeless Man’s Facebook Mission:

Eric Sheptock has 4,548 Facebook friends, 839 Twitter followers, two blogs and an e-mail account with 1,600 unread messages. What he doesn’t have is a place to live,” wrote Nathan Rott in last Monday’s Washington Post.

Eric has been homeless for fifteen years, initiated when he was a crack addict. No longer an addict, he has evolved to become what he calls a “homeless homeless advocate,” a voice working for change on the issue of homelessness. He’s been living in a shelter in downtown Washington, D.C., for two years, and believes that continuing to live there is part of what makes him a good advocate. He spends his day fighting for better conditions in D.C.’s shelters and for support of the homeless in general. Among the followers on his Facebook and Twitter accounts are policymakers, those who advocate on behalf of the homeless, and many who have heard him speak on his work with the National Coalition for the Homeless.

D.C.’s streets are home to about 6500 homeless individuals. That’s an enormous number, particularly when you consider that for a good five to six months each year, the cold weather makes living outside at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, dangerous. Affordable housing is scarce and shelters are full to overflowing. Eric works each day, pressuring city officials to be more effective on the issue of homelessness.

Eric is extremely resourceful, powerfully creating from a dearth of resources. Saving the small income that he makes through writing blogs and public speaking, he uses public computers that he can access for free and a cell phone – one of his few possessions – to get the word out and be an agent for change. If you visit his Facebook page you will find link after link to organizations dealing with homelessness, transition housing for homeless individuals, articles about poverty, places for those in need to seek resources, and pep talks from those who respect him and his work. His personal note says, “Housing is a human right.” He then defines himself: “I am an avid homeless activist who continually contends with D.C. Government over the way it is handling homeless and housing issues.”

Eric believes that continuing to live in a homeless shelter is actually fuel for his purpose. He needs to feel, see, and live the complaints that homeless individuals experienceFrom his own experience and what he hears from others, he teaches us that homelessness is “caused or worsened by a lack of relationship or familial support. Building relationships with the homeless makes all the difference.” How better to continue to build those relationships than from the inside out?

Sitting at the computer each day, in the Library of Congress or at ThriveDC, an organization providing emergency resources, education and training for homeless individuals to help end the cycle of homelessness, he puts in about six hours scanning websites, writing blogs, hounding policy makers, sending tweets and preparing for his speaking engagements.

While Eric Sheptock’s path may be different than yours or mine, we may have a similar vision of all people having a safe, warm and dry shelter, and we may all believe, like Eric, that “housing is a human right.” Eric’s way of approaching the issue is unique to his purpose; a creative approach to making a difference for good that is deeply inspiring. His commitment extends to us this holiday season, inviting each of us to aid him in his fight against homelessness.

We post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Robin Damsky

Robin Damsky is the rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois, and co-author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, website, tools, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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