Craigslist gives hope to homeless

What do you and the man with the “Will Work for Food” sign have in common?  Chances are you’re both spending time online.  It appears the Internet has replaced the shopping cart as the “must have” accessory of beggars all over.  Just ask Kevin Boudreau, former MIT frat house cook, who has recently posted ads on Craigslist asking for donations in the form of camping gear to see him through the rough winter season ahead.  Boudreau is just one member of the recent influx of Internet panhandlers. This clever move allows destitute individuals to beg in a less conventional way, with the potential to reach many more people. People can log on from local shelters and quickly create an ad on Craigslist or make their own webpage — they even exchange ideas and information with each other via online forums.I view the “wiring” of the cyber beggars as a positive move toward cleaning up the streets and providing opportunities for people that are truly in need. With basic Internet skills, individuals are more equipped to search for jobs on a multitude of employment websites.  Of course, as with everything, there are the naysayers.  I was surprised to see a large number of comments denouncing this new brand of “cyber begging” in response to The Boston Globe’s article profiling Boudreau’s pursuit of camping equipment.  Most of the negative comments were along the lines of: “Wouldn’t their time and ingenuity be better spent looking for an actual job, rather than a handout?”My response is this: I don’t believe the two pursuits to be mutually exclusive.  In fact, I believe that replacing street corner petitioning with online ads frees up more time for the job search. Time that used to be spent holding a cardboard sign on the sidewalk can now be used searching for employment in a more time-efficient manner.That’s the beautiful thing about online ads — once they are created they survive on their own with little maintenance required. Also, there is a negative view in society as a whole toward those looking for a handout or a hand up. This is something that I have never really understood — nobody goes through life without receiving help at some point.  Just because not having a place to live makes people on the streets more vocal in their pursuit of help doesn’t mean they are a blemish on society.  Their creativity in seeking the World Wide Web as route to a better life should be applauded, not scorned.  I just hope that Boudreau joins Facebook because I’d love to be his friend.