Homeless Woman Becomes Twitter Celebrity & Finds a Home

Melissa Knowles

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Have you ever met someone whose life was changed by social media? Well you're about to. Allow me to introduce AnnMarie Walsh of Chicago, who credits Twitter for helping her escape homelessness. After being homeless for more than four years, Walsh started tweeting from a local library about what it was like to be homeless, hoping to erase the stigma, stereotypes, and misconceptions associated with it. Walsh says most people think "homeless people are all criminals, on drugs, alcoholics." That simply is not true, she said, explaining that some homeless people "have college degrees and because of the economy got laid off." The 41-year-old suggests people take the time to sit and converse with a homeless person to try and understand their situation better before passing judgment. The more she tweeted, using the handle @padchicago, the more popular she became. She currently has more than 5,200 followers, making her a bonafide social media celebrity. Walsh, who suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and a rheumatoid condition, says she joined Twitter to help her function better in social settings. She said that using the microblogging service "made me realize how many good people are out there." Those good people have come out of the woodwork in droves to help Walsh. Some of Walsh's Twitter followers offered to pay for her cell phone. Others have sent her gift certificates, clothing, and bus passes. One person even gave her a laptop. Perhaps the biggest gift was a home. More than a year ago, Walsh connected with someone at a Twitter event, and she found transitional housing with the help of a hospital social worker. Walsh's story found its way to a filmmaker who reached out to her about being in the documentary "Twittamentary," about homelessness in America. Because of the documentary, Walsh now speaks at Tweet-ups, or Twitter meet-ups, around the country. And Walsh has been off the streets since April of last year.

Our next story is all about helping you feel safer walking around your city. Microsoft has obtained a patent for "pedestrian route production," which will be a navigation system to help steer a pedestrian away from what is deemed a dangerous area. The GPS system will also try and keep pedestrians away from potentially hazardous weather conditions by mapping out the best route. So how does Microsoft define an unsafe area? According to the patent, the system will take into account the crime rates of a neighborhood. The new system could potentially be incorporated into Microsoft's search engine, Bing. One of the coolest features of the mapping system is the fact that it will notice when a person stops walking along the route, indicating that he or she is taking in a view. It will then rate that route higher on the scenic scale. Some people are criticizing Microsoft's new venture. One person on Twitter said the GPS system will help you "avoid heat and poor people."