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NEW Resource! Housing: A Practical Guide to Learning, Advocating and Building

A New Resource on Housing!

The United States faces a looming crisis in housing, the second in barely more than a decade. The job losses and other economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have many of us facing an increased risk of eviction and foreclosure; at the same time, there is a marked shortage of available housing within reach for most Americans. The problems of homelessness and housing insecurity are ongoing and growing. Solving them means developing sustainable solutions for the long term, rather than temporary fixes for a current crisis. This church has a clear imperative to help those of us experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. The church also has a big opportunity to make a difference.

This new resource from ELCA World Hunger will help you get started in learning about homelessness and affordable housing, advocating on issues connected to homelessness and affordable housing, and even building affordable housing!

Download “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” from Check out other resources from ELCA World Hunger on the same page and at!

Who Is This Resource For?

This resource is for congregations concerned about homelessness and affordable housing. For congregations new to this work, this resource will provide step-by-step guidance on how to build awareness and capacity around the root causes of homelessness, how to become an advocate for affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness, and, finally, how to build affordable housing. For congregations already involved in this work, the resources in this guide can help with congregation and community education, training new volunteers, and refining your current project.

About This Resource

This resource contains three sections: “Learn,” “Advocate” and “Build.”

The “Learn” section contains activities and information to educate congregations and groups about the complex issues of housing and homelessness. If your group is just getting started, use the information and activities in this section to learn more about a wide variety of topics: common myths about homelessness, effective responses to housing insecurity, and the historical impact of the discriminatory practice of redlining. This section also introduces common terms used to describe housing insecurity and homelessness.

The “Advocate” section contains information and activities to help participants become effective housing and homelessness advocates. It includes helpful information on the roots of Lutheran advocacy, housing policy, insights from leaders and more.

The “Build” section contains a guide on how to build affordable housing, with helpful information about choosing a team, forming a nonprofit, funding a project and more. There are also checklists of the tasks necessary to create a successful affordable housing project.

Learn More

Interested in learning more about affordable housing, homelessness and learning from some of ELCA World Hunger partners about this important work? Check out the latest Hunger at the Crossroads webinar on Hunger and Housing here:

Get Connected

If you use “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” or have questions about how to use the guide, get in touch with us at

Note: the housing guide is having some issues with sizing in peoples’ browser windows. If you have this issue, try downloading the resource to your personal device!

Hunger at the Crossroads: New Webinar Series


banner with title of webinar series


We know that hunger is about more than food. Understanding hunger – and working to end it – means seeing the many ways hunger and poverty intersect with so many other issues, including climate change, food production, access to housing, racial justice, gender justice and more. In “Hunger at the Crossroads,” a webinar series hosted by ELCA World Hunger, we will explore these intersections and the ways we can be part of God’s promise of a just world where all are fed.

New webinar sessions will be posted below. Participants do need to register beforehand, so check back and register to attend!


The webinars are open to anyone passionate about ending hunger and eager to learn more. In each session, we will dive deeply into the topic, with presentations from ELCA World Hunger staff and partners and time for questions and conversation.

Upcoming Webinars

“Conflict and Hunger” – November 3, 2022, at 1:00pm Central time

Violent conflict is one of the most significant drivers of hunger around the world. From wars between nations to ethnic and tribal violence, conflicts affect farms, markets, jobs, housing, trade and more. In this webinar, we will hear from ELCA staff from around the world, who will help us dive more deeply into the tragic and significant ways violent conflict impacts hunger.

“Health and Hunger” – December 1, 2022, at 6:00pm Central time

Hunger and health are related in complex ways. Hunger and under-nourishment can both contribute to long-term health problems, while health challenges can increase the risk of hunger through lost wages and expensive medical bills. In this webinar, we will be joined by experts from both the United States and overseas to learn more. We will also hear from leaders working to improve health in their communities and learn some effective steps that can be taken toward a just world where all are fed – and where all are healthy.


Registration for both “Conflict and Hunger” and “Health and Hunger” is now open through one form! Visit to register. You can register for one or both of the upcoming webinars through this form.  Follow ELCA World Hunger on Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-date information, including dates and links for registration for future webinars. Questions about “Hunger at the Crossroads” can be sent to


Previous Webinars

“Sexuality, Gender Identity and Hunger” with Rev. Heidi Neumark (Trinity Lutheran Church, New York, New York) and Rev. Joe Larson (Fargo, North Dakota) – August 12, 2021

“Climate Change and Hunger” with Ryan Cumming and Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) – October 27th, 2021

“Hunger and Poverty by the Numbers: Where Are We at Now?” with Ryan Cumming (ELCA World Hunger) – December 9, 2021

“Housing and Hunger” with Brooke De Jong (ELCA World Hunger) and featuring a NEW! resource on housing – June 29, 2022

Watch the recordings of previous “Hunger at the Crossroads” webinars here:


We hope to see you “at the Crossroads”!


Ending Homelessness in Virginia


The following is an excerpt from “‘Big Dreams’ of Ending Homelessness in Virginia,” featured in Living Lutheran.


Last year, 25-year-old Maya (last name withheld), who lives in Virginia, was expecting her first child. Collecting unemployment due to COVID-19, she was staying with her parents when she got into an argument with them; they wanted more money to lodge her. After the altercation turned physical, Maya knew she had to leave the home for her baby’s safety. Two weeks before her due date, she was sleeping in her car.

Maya asked around and soon heard about ForKids, a nonprofit and partner of ELCA World Hunger that serves 14 cities and counties in southeast Virginia to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and children. Soon she connected with a caseworker, Lisa Ellsworth, who shared these words of comfort: “After having the baby, you have a room.” ForKids set Maya up with emergency housing to come home to from the hospital.

This year, ForKids received a Big Dream Grant from ELCA World Hunger. Larger than World Hunger’s typical domestic grants, Big Dream Grants are designed to support ministries with transformative projects that will make a significant difference in their communities.

Photo courtesy of ForKids

To read more about this transformative ministry, check out “Big Dreams of Ending Homelessness in Virginia,” a recent article by Alex Baird in Living Lutheran, your source for news, reflections and stories from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and its local and global companions.

All photos courtesy of ForKids.

A Year Like No Other


St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church’s Lunchtime Ministry offers a warm meal, hospitality and community to neighbors in Hoboken, New Jersey. This important work is supported in part by a Domestic Hunger Grant from ELCA World Hunger. Stanley Enzweiler is the Program Manager of St. Matthew Trinity’s Lunchtime Ministry and has worked with the ministry since 2016. In this post, Stanley reflects on the uncertainty and stress the community faced in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic – and on the hope, hard work and perseverance that has kept Lunchtime Ministry going. You can read a previous post from Stanley here.

March 16th, 2020, I didn’t want to open the door. The guests, I knew, were crowded outside, ready to rush in, grab a seat, and line up for coffee. They were expecting a long, leisurely morning with steaming cups of soup served to their tables by volunteers who knew their names. At Lunchtime Ministry (LTM), a soup kitchen/drop-in center in the heart of Hoboken, New Jersey, everything is free: the coffee, the wifi, the laughter, and the community. Today, all that was about to change.

I unlocked the door. “Hang on, everyone,” I said. “You have to come in one at a time. Wash your hands, and then I will give you a bagged lunch. We’re serving everything to go.”

For years, LTM had been a pillar of stability in people’s lives. We were open every Monday to Thursday, holidays and blizzards be darned. Some of our guests had gone through the same routine every day for years.

But that weekend in March 2020, the country had shut down around us. A new world had arrived. The virus could be anywhere.  Masks were not yet required, and people argued about whether gloves did any good. Instead of saying “Goodbye,” we told each other to “Stay safe.”

LTM was shutting down too. Our priority was keeping each other healthy—but avoiding COVID was just part of the picture. It was cold outside, and our guests had nowhere to go.  Some of them stopped coming to LTM, and I still don’t know where they ended up.  One woman sat down on the floor in front of the coffee machine and refused to leave.

We worked with the Hoboken Shelter and the local welfare office to lodge some of our older and less healthy guests in hotel rooms. As much as this helped space out our homeless population, several of our hotel guests continued to come to LTM every morning. That’s how much our community mattered.

As the summer went by, we borrowed an idea pioneered by some restaurants in Hoboken and opened up our own strEATery: outdoor tables and chairs where guests could sit together and enjoy to-go food. This gave us back a taste of the community we had missed so much. In Autumn, we began reopening for volunteers and asking our community to donate hot dishes, which we served in to-go cups.  And when temperatures dropped, we opened back up inside. We have limited our capacity in accordance with statewide regulations, and we have continued to enforce hand-washing, masks, and social distancing. Of course, it is much more work serving people inside than providing food to go, but having our community back has been worth it.

We have worked closely with other local services, including the Hoboken Shelter, the city’s food pantries, and the county’s clinics. We have provided our guests, volunteers, and community members with onsite flu shots, health screenings, and, this spring, over 150 COVID-19 vaccines. Individuals, schools, restaurants and spas from across the country have overwhelmed us with their support, donating food, hygiene items and money; spreading the word about LTM; and providing moral support. At least once a week, I hear from a former volunteer who wants to say hello and see how they can help.


This has been a year like no other. We are not used to thinking on our feet and changing things up at LTM, especially not when lives hang in the balance. But everyone has had to adapt this year, and through it all, LTM has continued to be there for our guests. We have provided as many services as we can while keeping our population healthy.

Who knows what the next steps will be?  Regardless, we’ll take them.

God’s work through the guests, volunteers and community members at LTM still continues – and continues to thrive! As of April 2021, over 500 vaccines have been distributed through LTM and its partners. With more community members protected, LTM has been able to offer more events at its site, including screenings for HIV, blood pressure, and glucose levels, haircuts for guests, assistance signing up for health insurance and housing, and fundraisers to keep the ministry going.

Celebrating Big Dream Grants in 2021!


We are excited to introduce the four recipients of ELCA World Hunger Big Dream Grants for 2021!

ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream grants, one-time gifts of $10,000 to $75,000, support ministries in the United States and Caribbean as they pursue innovative and sustainable approaches to ending hunger. Together, we celebrate the ways God is working through these ministries and their “big dreams” for their communities.

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic repercussions have brought into focus the weaknesses in the systems and structures intended to ensure that basic human needs are met. In the United States, unemployment, under-employment and healthcare costs are high, and hunger is on the rise. In 2021, ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream grants will support ministries that are boldly working to uproot, transform or re-envision the structures and norms that perpetuate disparities in access to resources and result in 77% of low-income Americans living without the savings to cover costs when an emergency arises.

Introducing the ELCA World Hunger Big Dream Grants for 2021:


Pueblo County, Colorado

group of people from PosadaFor 33 years, Posada has been providing shelter, housing and supportive services to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless in Pueblo County, Colorado.  The focus of Posada’s service delivery is the provision of housing and supportive services, which includes referrals for food assistance, food banks and more, with a special focus on food items for youth. The mission of the agency is “to provide housing and supportive services that empower homeless individuals and families in Pueblo County to become self-supporting members of the community.”

The Big Dreams Grant from ELCA World Hunger will help Posada implement and strengthen their Senior Housing facility through the creation of a safety net to support unhoused older adults. Posada addresses the needs of homeless individuals, families, youth, veterans and, now, older adults to break down barriers, reduce inequality and build strong relationships that move us toward a just world where basic needs of all are met.


Detroit, Michigan

MOSES is a faith-based, grassroots-led community organizing nonprofit serving residents of Detroit, Michigan, and its surrounding region. An interfaith, multi-racial and regionally-focused organization, MOSES especially emphasizes the leadership of laypeople and clergy from member congregations based in Black communities in Detroit and other southeast Michigan communities. MOSES identifies as a Black-led organization, and their overarching ministry is to develop the civic skills of marginalized residents so that they may act upon their values in the public arena. By focusing on grassroots leadership, MOSES remains rooted in their commitment to addressing needs that are directly expressed and identified by members of marginalized communities. To this goal, MOSES’ priority issues are based upon direct input from community leaders.

The Big Dreams Grant will help MOSES achieve its long-term objective of reforming the ways in which water is sourced, delivered and billed in southeast Michigan, in order to end water shut-offs in low-income neighborhoods. This work is critical in ensuring access to clean water in a city that has experienced crises in access to water over the last decade or more.

MOSES is also working to counter the trend of divestment from Michigan’s public health system by building public demand for increased state investment in public health infrastructure. MOSES is doing this by working to make affordable access to clean water (water equity) and renewed investments in public health central areas of focus in the 2021 Detroit mayoral campaign. At the same time, MOSES is working to build capacity to drive increased investment in public health infrastructure. They are also working with a coalition to establish a graduated income tax structure in Michigan that will protect people living in poverty and create the opportunity for much-needed investment.

Church on the Street

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Church on the Street is a Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community (SAWC) of the ELCA and a vital ministry in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with a primary focus of being the church with people living with poverty and homelessness. Church on the Street (COTS) works towards equality, peace, justice and advocacy while offering a place at the table for everyone to be fed physically and spiritually.

Responding to the pandemic, the “small” ministry of COTS has served in big ways. COTS has deep, genuine, ongoing relationships that have enabled them to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in the community, especially when larger organizations have not been able to provide services to them. The Big Dream grant will enable COTS to double their work in the city, meeting the immediate needs of neighbors, advocating for justice and creating a system of change alongside community responders to best serve those in need.


Norfolk, Virginia

ForKids is committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and children in Norfolk, Virginia. Their integrated services are vital to the safety and well-being of families in their community.

When schools closed for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, ForKids partnered with Mercy Chefs, local restaurants and individual donors to deliver over 8,000 meals to ForKids families in the region. Their Housing Crisis Hotline geared up to meet the unprecedented call volume which peaked at 935 calls in a single day. The Hotline now handles over 3,000 calls weekly, and ForKids is partnering with multiple cities to administer over $5 million in rental assistance to households experiencing a COVID-related financial setback, in addition to expanding emergency shelter placement. The team has been working diligently to keep families connected to social supports, academic support for their children and other vital resources.

The Big Dreams Grant from ELCA World Hunger will support a digital storytelling campaign to help public officials and community leaders make informed decisions about the issues contributing to hunger and poverty in their region. It will also support the construction of the new Center for Children and Families slated to open in March 2021. The Center includes the Regional Services Headquarters, a 135-bed family shelter, an expanded 24-seat Housing Crisis Hotline which will double call response capability and an education center with the capacity to tutor up to 120 children in creative learning spaces. With a full-service kitchen, ForKids estimates they will be able to provide over 31,000 meals each year. The Center will connect more than 85,000 individuals annually to services when complete. The Center will also be the home of a long-awaited dream: The ForKids Research & Advocacy Center.

Even amid challenging times, we know that God is at work in new and surprising ways. Through these transformative, holistic and integrated ministries – and the generosity that makes Big Dream Grants possible – we can see the impact of this work, and be part of it, in communities near and far. Thank you for your support of ELCA World Hunger as we work together to respond to hunger and poverty in the United States and 59 other countries around the world. To learn more about ELCA World Hunger’s approach, visit


Big Dream Grants are part of ELCA World Hunger’s support of local and regional ministries. Through Domestic Hunger Grants, Big Dream Grants, Daily Bread Matching Grants, and Hunger Education and Networking Grants, we accompany partners throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Each year, several ministries that exemplify the values of transformative, holistic and integrated work are invited to apply for Big Dream Grants.


Fair Housing and Everyday Jericho Roads- ELCA Advocacy Action Alert!


Brooke De Jong is the Program Assistant for Hunger Education with ELCA World Hunger. Previous to this position she worked managing grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a housing agency in Chicago, IL. 

When it comes to responding to homelessness in our congregations, often there is a will but not a way. We would help if we only knew how to do it safely, if we could guarantee that our money was not going to support an addiction, if we had more time to understand best practices and so on. Fear causes us to freeze and walk or drive past the neighbor in need on our everyday Jericho roads. We all have been the Priest and the Levite when we wanted to be the Good Samaritan. And sometimes we have been the person victimized on the hazardous road, waiting for our Good Samaritan.

However, many congregations do great work. They support shelters, make kits with important items such as clean socks and personal care products, act as warming shelters in the winter and more. Some even actively advocate for fair housing and oppose laws that criminalize poverty. Some of us have even made personal care kits or stood on a picket line – but still drive past the person with the cardboard sign standing on the median.

We all walk different Jericho roads every day seeing or not seeing and responding to or not responding to our neighbors without homes. Sometimes we are the Priest and the Levite and the Good Samaritan all in one day or even in a span of a few hours. This is what it means to be human and in need of God’s grace.

But just because we are afraid and in daily need of God’s grace, we should not forget our baptismal calling and duty as citizens. The ELCA social statement on Church and Society says we are daily called to be “[. . .] wise and active citizens. [. . .] Along with all citizens, Christians have the responsibility to defend human rights and to work for freedom, justice, peace, environmental well-being, and good order in public life. They are to recognize the vital role of law in protecting life and liberty and in upholding the common good.”

Our neighbors without homes are in need of our actions as wise and active citizens.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in January proposed a new rule that would weaken oversight and national data collection on fair housing projects. This rule change would disproportionately affect low-income communities of color. Under the proposed rule change the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule (AFFH) that was first designed to help communities promote diversity and inclusivity under the 1968 Fair Housing Act and take proactive steps to reverse the effects of housing segregation would be rendered almost completely ineffectual.

Read more about the AFFH Rule here.

To join with others in opposing this rule change, check out the ELCA Advocacy Action Alert here.


Go in Peace. Remember the Poor.

Go in Peace. Remember the Poor.

Yesterday, at the end of our church service, the worship assistant sent us out with “Go in Peace. Remember the Poor.” More commonly, I hear, “Go in Peace. Serve the Lord,” so the poignant statement hit me a little more clearly. Instead of just saying serve the Lord, it gave a way to do so. Ever since yesterday morning, I have been thinking about what this means to me.

During my undergraduate years of study I completed a number of projects and papers on issues surrounding the Middle East and Islamic-Christian relations. The topics fascinated me. I think what caught my interest the most was my own need for peace and my inability to fully digest how we become so at odds with each other when we are continually summoned to peaceful ways. So I dove into the topics to learn more. It was, and is, enlightening. So today, when I think about going in peace, I think about our call to act peaceably to others. Our neighbors with whom we may have disputes, those we agree to disagree with, those who are a different color, religion or race than us, and those who seek to provoke anger or violence. We can respond in peace. My favorite Old Testament passage comes from Isaiah 2:3-5…

3 Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

5 Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the LORD.”

I love the imagery of nation not taking up sword against nation, disputes being settled and resources being used to produce food instead of weapons. This makes me think about how peace can lead to food; to a decrease in poverty.

“Remember the Poor,” the worship assistant said.

I think it is rather easy to forget the poor when we, ourselves, struggle daily to pay our bills and make ends meet. Sometimes, it is hard to remember the poor when we see the same man with an “out of work” sign standing by the traffic light month after month. It is easy to wonder why he has not gotten some kind of work yet. So this is when I remember the work of ELCA World Hunger. This probably sounds like a marketing plug, but it is true. When I do my best to remember the poor I remember the projects we support around the world, the goats that change lives, the school meal programs we advocate for and the food desert I visited as a World Hunger intern two summers ago. “Poor” is such a general category that encompasses so many life experiences. So often, we think of those in our immediate sight, people on the street corners asking for money, and so often we forget those just beyond our vision. Families like those with a roof over their head but not enough food to go around the table. The little kids I saw walking to school a couple of weeks ago wearing shorts in the snow…those who can only afford winter gloves if they come from the clothing bank…those with beautiful hearts, positive attitudes, undying faiths and empty pocketbooks. Likewise, those with sad hearts, negative attitudes, dying faiths and pocketbooks which stream unendingly.  There are many types of “Poor.”

Who will you remember this Christmas? How will your peaceful call decrease poverty? How can we, as Christians, “Go in Peace. Remember the Poor,” this season?

~Lana Lile

A place to be

I’ve been thinking recently about how important it is to have a place to be. I mean this on several levels. The first is the smallest and most personal –  a physical house. A place to go to after work or school. Shelter versus homelessness. I’ve been thinking about this because I have a friend who has recently taken her child and left a destructive relationship. Thank goodness for that, but because she has been a stay-at-home mom, she doesn’t have a job or income, which is making the move difficult. Fortunately, she has supportive friends, a really great church community, and she is receiving child support. She’s got more options than many women in her position, but her situation is still tenuous. She managed to get a short-term lease on a small apartment, but has little money left over for food. She’s relying on friends and the food pantry to help out. She figures it’s easier to get help with food then shelter, and it seems to me that there’s great comfort in having a place to be.

A second level of having a place to be is in liking where you live, fitting in there, and having a sense of belonging. I’ve been thinking about this as a relative who was recently laid off considers having to move his family to wherever he can find a job. They don’t want to move. They are very connected to their current community. But ultimately, they have to have income. There’s a difference between having a place to be and having a place you want to be, and, I’d guess, a corresponding difference in the degree to which you thrive.

Which is not so different from some of what I heard in Mexico City a little over a month ago when I was there with the ELCA World Hunger Leadership Gathering. For all the controversy immigration causes in this country, it’s not exactly a first choice option for many immigrants, either. But like my laid-off relative, you go where you can make a living. My relative may have to change states, but at least he’ll still be in a familiar culture, he’ll be able to speak the language, and he’ll be able to provide food and shelter for his family legally. How much more difficult for the Mexican whose choices are living in poverty at home, or as an outlaw in the U.S.? Neither is a very good or fulfilling place to be.

And then there’s the Maldives. Anne Basye mentioned the country in her blog last week. They face the possibility of their entire country being submerged by rising sea levels due to climate change. Where can one bein that situation, when your country no longer exists? I read that their president is talking to other countries about buying land onto which they might relocate should theirs go under water. How does that work?! Do they just move the whole country? Do they become part of the country into which they move, or is, say, Australia willing to sell off part of it’s land so they can create a new Maldives? What happens when a whole country of people has no where in the world to legally be?

The causes of hunger and the interconnections of those causes is complex, and it seems to be that this question of where a person can be ties so many of them together. Employment, economics, land rights, land availability, governance, identity. No big insights here today; just respect for the complexity.

-Nancy Michaelis

Where is she tonight?

I spend some time most every week at the library. In the past month or so, I’ve noticed a homeless woman who seems to be spending quite a lot of time there, too. She’s always in the same chair, with a couple of small bags in the chair next to her. Most days, she also has three or four books on the little table that swings from the arm of her chair. Last week, she was walking around in her stocking feet as her boots dried next to the baseboard heater. I remember thinking that it looked like a fairly pleasant way to spend the afternoon – probably a welcome respite. But then again, I thought, what do I know?

When I was at the library today, she was there too, with her nose in a book, just like me. It was 41 degrees or so outside at the time, positively balmy for Chicago in January. But now, at 9:30 p.m., my outdoor thermometer says it’s 7, and with the windchill, I’m sure it’s well below zero. The poor weatherman on TV is looking miserable as the snow blows sideways around him. And I’m sure he’s only out for a few minutes!

I wonder where my fellow-reader is right now. These are the Chicago suburbs. There’s not a series of warming centers like in the city. I know Journeys from PADS to HOPE offers shelter around here, as do PADS organziations throughout the suburbs. I hope she’s able to get to one – or has some other warm place to go. And as I think about her, I’m 1) really grateful for my own warm house, 2) really glad that PADS is one of the organizations my church supports, and 3) fervent about my work with ELCA World Hunger, which is so dedicated to addressing root causes of hunger and poverty. No one should have to wonder where to find heat on a night like this.

Homeless in Second Life

I was driving home from work the other day when the radio did a spot on how economic reality was hitting the virtual world Second Life. Apparently, the Second Life (SL) economy is suffering from bank closings, and some real-life retailers have closed up their SL shops, not having seen the results they wanted. This made me wonder: Are there homeless people in Second Life? Regardless of how people are doing in their first life, are they learning about – or even intentionally trying out – homelessness in their Second Life?

You can probably tell by my questions that I’m not a Second Life citizen. But the whole concept of the place pretty much intrigues me. So I Googled “Second Life homeless” just to see what I would find. Indeed! Some interesting results! For example, this was posted by one Orhan Ayyuce as a comment to a blog: “my avatar is faceless right now and it is cold outside. i spent last night sleeping next to bunch of dead avatars in the graveyard where people just died from SL hardship. well like i said i am homeless at the moment and i don’t know how much more i can go like this without the full membership.”

Or try this, in Mitch Radcliffe’s blog: “When I rejoined Second Life last summer… I created Homeless Hermes, who would go and sit in people’s houses and on their land, just waiting. And when someone would show up, creeping around me like they would a stranger they found in their physical yards—you could see them not wanting to be rude, but being all the same kinds of possessive you see in people everywhere, all the time—I’d give them some Linden money. It made people nervous.”

And there were many Google results like this one about a Spanish NGO that put a virtual boy with a cardboard box on a corner to raise awareness about homelessness and their organization (Mensajeros de la Paz).

Again, I don’t really know anything about functioning in SL. But from these few results, it seems like there’s an opportunity to build an educational experience around what it’s like to be homeless. And perhaps, like Mensajeros de la Paz, there’s a way to tie the experience back to real-life organizations that give people an outlet for action. What a tool that would be for those of us fighting poverty and hunger! Perhaps someone has already done it?! Or wants to take it on?