Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homeless Woman Builds Twitter Following by Using Public Library

It's become common to see homeless people at the public library. What's not so common, however, are homeless people tweeting about their existence through the use of the computers at the public library. This is precisely what AnnMarie Walsh did. Walsh had been living on the streets of Arlington Heights, a northwestern suburb of Chicago. She routinely visited the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, using the computer stations to tweet about the ups and downs of her daily life.

AnnMarie Walsh on the cover of StreetWise magazine.
image source:

Eventually, she would build a Twitter following of 6,000, be interviewed by the media, and be invited to speak at conferences. The upshot of all this attention has been that Walsh has received many offers of assistance. There's been such an outpouring of support that she is no longer homeless. Walsh is now a resident of Deborah's Place, a "Chicago organization [that] offers free permanent housing to homeless women, giving them a place to stay and get their lives back on track," according to WGN TV. Now with a roof over her head, Walsh aspires to find a job and go back to school.

For more on AnnMarie Walsh's incredible story, see the WGN TV article below. * January 11, 2012

#NoLongerHomeless: Twitter Helps AnnMarie Walsh Get Off the Streets of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs

By Marcus Leshock
WGN Feature Reporter

ChicagoShe found herself alone, on the streets of Arlington Heights, with nowhere to turn. Today, AnnMarie Walsh has a following 6,000 strong.

I've been following @PadsChicago for a while now. There, AnnMarie was tweeting her life as a homeless person in the Northwest suburbs. Her online diary had spread all over the country, offering an intimate portrait into a world many know little about.

How does a homeless person tweet? At the public library. AnnMarie was a frequent visitor to the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, using their computer stations to update all of her Internet endeavors. Many homeless use pre-paid cell phones to do the same.

Her tweets, Facebook updates, and blog posts were read across the world, leading to all kinds of assistance and support. She was invited to Los Angeles and asked to speak at the 140 Conference. There she stood in the Kodak Theatre, still homeless, telling the packed house how she uses social media in hopes of improving her life.

Through a series of tweet ups and meetings, she was eventually led to Deborah's Place. The Chicago organization offers free permanent housing to homeless women, giving them a place to stay and get their lives back on track, no matter how long it takes.

AnnMarie's story has taken on a viral feel-good following as of late. She was featured in the Daily Herald a few weeks ago. Mashable told her story a couple of days ago. And tonight, we'll have her on the WGN News at Nine.

So many of my stories have me running into people I'm following on Twitter - and AnnMarie's is one of my favorites. She acknowledges that there is still a long road ahead. She's dealing with mental health issues and hasn't seen her children in a very long time. She hopes to find work eventually, and even go back to school.

We watched her scroll through the hundreds of supportive tweets that came in after Mashable ran its piece. In world where we hear so much about the evils of the internet, it's always refreshing to see how much joy it can bring as well.

You can hear AnnMarie Walsh tell her story at the Arlington Heights Library on January 29 at 2pm. More information about that HERE.

And if you know somebody who could benefit from services at Deborah's Place, or want to contribute to this organization in some way, you can find them on their website HERE.

I also mentioned in my story. Find them HERE.

And of course, follow AnnMarie on Twitter HERE.