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I diaried early Friday about Jack Hidary's magnificent talk at Bioneers 2009. In referencing Milgram's '67 experiment, referred to as "Six degrees of separation," Hidary reveals that the study actually found we are only separated by 4 degrees. The number, it seems, was changed to 'six' by a playwright because it was just more 'catchy' for the play and movie.

Now, Hidary says, social media has shrunk the distance between us and we are rapidly moving towards 2-degrees of separation.

"What can we do with this 2-degree universe that we could not do before?" he asks. "We each can be leaders, now I have the tools; I have the tools to create a 2- degree universe. We are hurling towards each other. The technology and the tools are there. The Math is there. Do not wait!"

There IS no time to wait. And as Hidary uses this metric as a call to  unify in the  goal of preventing a 2 degree rise in global climate by 2020, this same formula can be employed to address the problem of homelessness, not just in America, but everywhere on our Home, Planet Earth.

"Is it time to revise the old saw that everyone in the world is connected by just six degrees of separation? A study from French mobile carrier O2 has found that strangers are more connected to each other than they ever have been.

According to the study, the average person is now connected by just three degrees within a shared "interest" or social group instead of six. In fact, it found that people are usually a part of three main networks: family, friendship, and work." TechCrunch, 9/08.


Using the Facebook Proxy, Hidary points out that today FB users total 300 million, with the number of friends averaging around 120 and so "it is likely that within your group of 120 friends there is one friend who is a "super connector." Facebook's movement towards 2-degrees, he proposes, is attributable to their vastly improved "Suggested Friends" feature, elevating the network to a vehicle for search and discovery.  

In real time and place, the movement towards 2-degrees is not happening uniformly, he says. There are communities at 2 degrees in Brooklyn, New York, for example, where everyone knows everybody.

In Washington, DC, because of massive influx of web 2.0 savvy progressives following the campaign) the estimate is 3-degrees. Here in Northern California communities are no more than 4-degrees separated. Each of these communities is moving towards 2 degrees at different rates.

Michigan Homeless Report

"They’re like a deer caught in headlights," said Kimberlee Reinking, with the Housing Resource Center of Allegan County. "We’re seeing people who have never had to deal with anything like this.

"They’re having a hard time choking down where they’re at, even if it’s completely out of their control."

Across five counties in West Michigan, the state last year counted 13,332 men, women and children who experienced homelessness.


... a much clearer picture is emerging of those who are homeless in West Michigan.

They are children who have never known what it is like to live in a real house. They are families living on the brink of eviction and foreclosure. And, to distinguish themselves from the growing numbers of their peers, some have created a modern-day shantytown in a factory’s shadows.

They are among the homeless people found during a month of interviews by reporters for The Press and two related newspapers, the Kalamazoo Gazette and the Muskegon Chronicle.

You might even recognize some of the faces.

Nearly half of those seeking help are homeless for the first time, records show. And most work at steady jobs — often at two or three. The Grand Rapids Press via MLive, 10/18

Here's one interesting example. Late yesterday, after leaving Bioneers, I take my two old mutts to the dogpark where immediately upon arrival I am greeted by a couple who attended our initiating group's Transition Mill Valleyfilm screening the previous evening. In talking to them about the day at Bioneers, I am approached by the man who is filming the morning plenaries. We sit and talk about the speakers. A joint acquaintance arrives, sits on the opposite bench and begins talking about the videographer's top noche presentation Wednesday evening and how fabulous his film is. I inquire about the film and discover that both men participate in ongoing events at the Tam Valley Community Center. Just the night before I had seen signs on their bulletin board about ongoing workshops they host on composting, rainwater catchment, and  permaculture, and wrote down a reminder to myself to find out how T-MV might collaborate with their programs.

So who is the 'super connector' in this group, and what are the chances that one of us knows someone who is homeless? Or knows someone who knows someone who is homeless? I'm not a math person, and so I have no idea how one would go about determining just how many homeless people might statistically have been within a few degrees of our sphere of influence yesterday. And what we might have accomplished had the issue been raised?

New York City Homeless News

...homelessness has reached an all-time high and that 120,000 men, women and children resorted to the shelter system during the fiscal year that ended this summer. The spike in homelessness is especially troubling because it has arrived before the onset of winter, which typically drives people in off the streets, filling the shelter system to bursting. NYT Editorial, Oct. 14, 09

2-Degrees and Ending Homelessness

A UK Facebook group The 6 Degrees Of Separation Karma Experiment To End Homelessness launched in July to raise money for Shelter.Org

To date, this project has 1,023 members.  In August, one member of the group announced he had reached every one of his 700 plus friends in 20 seconds.

Maybe we could do better.

  1. Join Facebook's Stop Homelessness in America page.
  1. Invite everyone of your friends to also join.
  1. Lets  see how long it takes us to grow this group.

Homeless Women

I guess it had to happen. This photo has been on my hard drive for a few days now and it's been eating away at me. Driving me nuts and I had to post it. I could have shown far worse but I have chosen to point my camera elsewhere when I pass. What struck us was the fact that she was wearing a plastic shirt. She is already undernourished and wearing plastic in heat like I have not experienced in such a long time. This is just tragic!
This is not just a photo of where I am and I can't be accused of posting this to shock - I have many images of the homeless in my stream taken at home in Australia The Lucky Country
We must remember these people and I know many of my friends already do. Who knows why she is there. She may be mentally ill or there may have been a tragic loss in her life she just could not bare to face. I don't care if she is an addict, just don't pass them by without at least a *There but the grace of god go I.

Bessie Mae Berger is 97 years old. She lives on the streets of Los Angeles in a 1973 Chevy Suburban, homeless.

If you thought these kinds of stories couldn't happen in America, think again.

This week, the LA Times profiled Bessie and her two sons -- Larry and Charlie, ages 60 and 62. The story explains - in excruciating, heartbreaking detail - how this elderly mother and her two sons survive without a home.

Empty parking lots, public washrooms, and panhandling for money to buy food are a daily reality for Bessie and her sons. Sleeping on the front seat of a car - packed with all of their worldly possessions - wrapped in blankets. According to the LA Times, they would like to find a way to stay together in a house or apartment, which is why the trio has had difficulty finding housing. Shannon Moriarty, End Homelessness, 10/18

Homeless Female Veterans.

"Rising Rates of Homelessness among Female Veterans--Female veterans are swelling the ranks of the homeless. There are already more than 13,000 homeless female veterans nationwide. And existing programs for these homeless female veterans aren't cutting it. Adding to the challenge is the increasing number of female veterans with families in need of homeless services. Almost a quarter of female vets in the VA's homeless programs have children under the age of 18, creating a ripple effect that will impact people for generations to come. TPM Cafe, 10/15

"We live in a time of radical uncertainty." Joanna Macy, Bioneers, October 18, 2009

The Maldives, threatened by drowning due to climate change, set to go carbon-neutral...

In this morning's plenary, Joanna Macyoutlines the five gifts of uncertainty: the present moment, the power of intention, befriending pain, solidarity, and the immensity of time.

"We are ALIVE at this time," she says.  "We managed to get ourselves born...Our earth is alive... You can lose the story. It can come apart... When a species is gone, it's GONE!"

The present moment, Macy says, "is the only place where you can see what you can see... chose just what we're going to be."

"Go into a communion with the living world," she suggests. "The pain and the love are two sides of the same coin."

It is estimated that there are well over 100 million people living without a home on Earth. They have been displaced by drought and famine, by rising sea waters and wars; by economic devastation.  

To think that the answer might be within 2-degrees ... Do not wait.

i hear your footsteps down the hall
you are home again . . . and say,
all the burdens of my day are lightened
and all the night noises ~ are music to my ears ~

Photo credits

six degrees of separation... by poly_mnia.
Deer in Strobe Light by PhotoInspirations
Six Degrees of Separation by Dragonfly
Homeless in winter by Waiting for the 15L Photos
This could be anywhere by FrAcTuReD
paradise drowning by m o d e
Home again by Girlguyed

"BrokenRoots is a group for writers, photographers, and advocates interested in addressing the issues facing the homeless, primarily as a result of the current financial crisis.  Our goal is to engage readers to report in on homeless issues in their communities, either by posting information into one of our diaries, or by contributing a diary or a photo-essay.  The  BrokenRoots project team writes and promotes Daily Kos diaries and other journalism; forges connections with other blogs, news sources, and organizations; creates collaborative projects; and shares related news and resources." (photo by Stranded Wind)


Originally posted to boatsie on Sun Oct 18, 2009 at 06:53 PM PDT.

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