The University District of Seattle, is lined with shops and cafes where students and faculty from the near by University of Washington can sit and use the widely available wireless internet on their smart phones and laptops. But not everyone in the area can afford that luxury. Within the 8-block area surrounding the university, there are a number of, largely hidden, homeless youth. In order to gain a better understanding of the problem of limited internet access for homeless youth, Jill Palzkill Woelfer and David G. Hendry, created a community information center and a three-week series of six classes, called New Tech for Youth Sessions.
Over 18 months, Woelfer and Hendry investigated how homeless youth were using the internet that the community center was able to provide. They found that the youth were able to:
- use the digital tools to find employment
- tell stories with representations of the built world
- portray life on the streets with video
- construct online identities
The youth were able to use tools such as Google Street View to tell the story of their lives, like pinpointing a safe spot on street where they slept or showing others their childhood home. By sharing these stories, the youth were able to start to build positive relationships with other youth and members of the support agencies. Many youth who are on the street become fearful of institutions which try to help.