Home Vacant NYC: Mapping the Homeless

Vacant NYC: Mapping the Homeless

The most exhilarating thing about social media to me is that it allows us to extend and amplify our dreams and concerns. One of the most bracing things that can be done with innovations in the social web is to take that innovation and turn it to uses the creators never thought of. An example of both these aspects of the web is Vacant NYC.

In a DIY response to a combination of homelessness, vacant properties that could be leveraged to ease that homelessness, and what they feel is a municipal disinterest in both, New York-based group Picture the Homeless, inspired by crisis-mapping outfit Ushahidi, are using crowdsource mapping to identify vacant property and lots in that city.

Sam Miller, lead organizer for Picture the Homeless, explains.

“In New York City, we’ve been fighting for legislation that would force the city to conduct an annual count of vacant buildings and lots. The Mayor says the city can’t afford it, but we see this as part of a bigger problem where real estate interests block the passage of any progressive legislation that could theoretically impact the housing market. To make the case that a count can be done cost-effectively, we created a (crowdsourced) map to solicit input from the community and create our own count.”

PTH is using Crowdmap, Ushahidi’s non-technical user-friendly version of their crowdsourced program. (When it first came out there were technical issues and we didn’t find it terribly friendly. Presumably that is not the case, at leas for this group.)

In an era when municipalities are getting pinched badly (though not as badly as the people who live in them usually), this is an excellent opportunity to sell both politicians and people on the utility of uniting volunteer effort and social media. If industry members are involved in keeping a vacancy canvass from being done, well, that same combination enables interested people to do it themselves.

Either way, information is gathered that can help interested parties to more fully understand their environments, to extend and amplify their concerns and dreams.

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