Homeless find a place to call home, on Twitter

IT'S the home that Twitter built. Joe Brown, 29, and his partner Ben Stevens, 23, were homeless when they came to Melbourne in January from Castlemaine.

But after one month tweeting from the Homeless In Melbourne Twitter account the men, with their two cats in tow, had navigated crisis centres, raised the bond money for a two-bedroom unit in Reservoir, and furnished it with contributions from strangers.

The account, @HomelessInMelb, was created on Boxing Day by 21-year-old university student Jamie Young.

His inspiration was @WeMelbourne where guests tweet about life in the city. ''My intention was to let people who are homeless and on the street have a voice and let the world know their story so people in similar situations can learn from them,'' Mr Young said.

At first he tweeted from the account himself, but was soon followed by Mr Brown whose contract with Parks Victoria had not been renewed after he was injured in an accident. When work dried up over Christmas at the meatworks where Mr Stevens worked, the two were left stranded.

Some followers wondered how many homeless people use Twitter, but Mr Brown, who tweets from his smartphone, said unexpectedly falling on hard times did not preclude access to the internet.

''I wanted to challenge the stereotype that everyone who is homeless is dirty and sitting in a corner somewhere,'' he said.

After speaking for a week to learn more about Mr Brown's background, Mr Young handed over control of the account on January 14. Mr Brown then updated the account's 135 followers on their predicament.

''While I'm tweeting this we are heading to Melbourne, unsure of where we're sleeping for another night,'' Mr Brown wrote. At first the pair slept in their car while moving between motels and crisis accommodation centres.

As luminaries like Corinne Grant and Father Bob tweeted support, their following grew. One woman let them stay in her city flat while she was away. Another follower started co-ordinating donations.

After finding a rental property online, Mr Brown tweeted a link to the fund-raising website, FundRazr, to help pay $2394 for the bond and first month's rent.

''We didn't force people,'' Mr Brown said, ''a lot of people had already asked how they could contribute.''

There was a trickle of modest contributions around $20 or $50, and some larger donors who requested anonymity.

''One guy went into the bank and put $350 straight in,'' Mr Brown said.

Mr Young is happy with the outcome for Mr Brown and Mr Stevens, but slightly daunted as the account passes 800 followers.

He is now working with a social media expert from homeless support agency HomeGround Services, on how to find future guests.

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