Getting Information to the Less Fortunate
By: Jerry Wilson
Abstract
 
 Three of the most important types of help for the less fortunate people are web sites, homeless centers and organizations, and street newspapers.  One of the big problems is getting the word out to the people.  The promotion of these three are difficult because of the barrier that stands between the helpers and the less fortunate whom need the help.  All thought all three are different from one another many of the same techniques are used for the promotions.  The following are the best ways that have been used for the promotion of these three forms of opportunity.

Introduction

 Many people just toss the letter aside in the trash like junk mail.  That letter is from their local homeless shelter asking for donations.  Sure this simple letter is a good way to get donations, but how does one go about letting the people in need know about this place of opportunity.  There are many obstacles that stand between the center and the people it is designed to help.  The promotion of shelters is not the hardest feat.  Try getting a web site designed to help the less fortunate to them.  To view the site it is a must to have a computer and access to the internet.  This is where the local libraries and centers with terminals come in.  Another area of focus is how street newspapers are so effective at reaching its audience.  As far as advertising this is a quote from an interview with Don Stanley, the operator of with a local homeless center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, “All we have to do is get the word out to one person.  Then there is a chain effect and in no time the word is all over town” (Stanley).  Here are the many ways that have been used to promote the following web sites, centers, and street newspapers that are designed to help the less fortunate.

Problems

 The sad part about having to promote all of the things designed for help is all of the problems standing in the way.  For instance the fact that most of the less fortunate people do not know how to read or write.  Most of the time even if you get a flyer or a paper out to the less fortunate they are not able to read it.  This is one of the hardest obstacles to over come.  If they can’t read the material they get then it does no good.  There are a few remedies for this such as they could have someone who is literate read it to them or there can be tutorials set up in the different centers to show them how to use it.  Another major problem that is in the way is the people who don’t care and take time to do their part to help out.  Most people don’t care whether or not the homeless people get help because that homeless person is not they.  This locks in with another one of the big disadvantages and that is money.  The shelters and sites are non-profit organizations and have no funds to promote.  So they have to rely on free ways of advertisement and often have to ask people for money to get the promotions up and running.  When the people who don’t care about the homeless gets the letters they just throw them aside and pay them no attention.  Patti Kelly, the founder of PK Outreach, Inc., is finding it hard to get funding for her non-profit organization.  Since there are no donations coming in the centers have no means of getting together the material it takes to let the homeless people know of the opportunities (Kelly).  Some of the other small disadvantages are the fact that some homeless people just don’t care about making anything of their life and the problem of the people at the tutorials not being nice to the people.  That makes it very tough to help when they have given up from the beginning.  Even if the people in the tutorial help sessions are willing to help they don’t let them save their information to their own disk.  They think that just because the people are not like them that their disk will cause the public computers to have problems.  Possibly the most important problem that ties in with the lack of support is the fact that it is so hard to keep the shelters open with no help or contributions from the public.  When the center fails to get up enough money to pay the banks for the loans they get foreclosed on.  More and more centers are being closed down and the homeless rate keeps increasing.  First, we had to look at these problems in promotion so that we could find a way around this so that we can understand all of the reasoning behind these different options.

The Internet

 The internet is the hardest thing to promote.  The main reason is that your audience has to have access to a computer and the internet to be able to see it.  That is not easy when your site is pointed toward helping homeless people also most of the operators of these sites did their sites out of their heart and love for humankind.  Therefore they don’t try to promote it because of lack of time.  One such person is Dee Southard who is the person who maintains one of the Colorado Homeless sites (Southard).  Based on e-mails to site operators some of the options that have been the most successful are passing out flyers, bulk e-mails, putting <meta> tags in so search engines will pick them up, registering with search engines, registering with a web ring, pop ups on terminals in libraries, face to face conversations, radio advertisements and through churches.

 The reasons the flyers are so successful are because even the homeless can see them.  Flyers can be posted on main streets and in local shop windows.  It won’t be displayed in only upper class areas where the targeted people cannot read it.  The only disadvantage to this means of promotion is the literacy factor but it still seems to be productive.  Flyers make it possible to cover a large area in no time.  After posting them in key areas of a town and just pass a few more out and it has been shown to create a 75% increase in hits on a site (Freeman).

 A less effective means along the lines of a flyer is sending out bulk e-mails.  If the less fortunate do have an e-mail address they will receive the e-mail.  This is targeted more towards getting donations from the people who are better off.  Overall this is not a real effective way of promoting a site.

 Many web pages insert meta tags in their sites with key words so search engines will pick them up.  For instance if a less fortunate person gets access to a terminal and goes to a search engine and types in “homeless” all of the sites with the word “homeless” in its meta tag.  This way of advertising has its advantages and disadvantages.  The advantages are that people can get access to it from any computer through any search engine and it is free to get them and put them in.  However, two of the disadvantages are the targeted people have to know how to use search engines and the web site operator has to be familiar with HTML format.  After the meta tags are inserted the site manager has to go to different search engines and register the sites.  This makes it to where those sites will be shown when certain key words are typed in.  The big disadvantage to this is the fact that some of the big search engines require money to be registered with them.  However, most of the search engines do it for free.  That is a huge plus for non-profit organizations because they don’t need to try and gather up money for this type of promotion.  These two together combined are a huge plus if you can get the less fortunate people on the computer and educated about search engine use.

 Going along the lines of promoting on the internet is getting involved in a web ring.  One example of this is the “Street Ring”.  Here is the process to show how simple it is:  first you fill out a form stating your name, business, and your web page URL.  Then you insert the links provided by the manager of the ring.  Then an e-mail is sent to the manager to tell him that it is up so he can check it for content and to make sure everything is installed correctly.  Finally, your web site is inserted in the ring.  This makes it a lot easier to get your site to the people it is targeted to reach because all they have to do is get to the first site on the page.  From there the can click a button that is to go to the next site in the ring.  Eventually they will get to your site just by searching through other sites.

 If the people get into the centers or the libraries to a terminal pop ups on the computers are very effective.  These pop-ups are a piece of paper that is folded to form a tent.  On the front of this paper is the name of the site and on the back is a description of what they will encounter on your site and why they would want to go there.  This type of promotion is very effective if you can get these pop-ups on all terminals that the less fortunate have access to and if you can get them to the computers.

 There is nothing like face-to-face advertisement.  Some sites get volunteers to go out to the less fortunate people and talk to them about the certain sites and how they can get to the specific sites if they get access to a computer.  Sometimes this method is even combined with the flyers because the targeted people might forget what they are told between the times they were talked to and the time they get to a computer (Stanley).

  Another type of promotion that is better for the centers and sites is by radio.  The reason it is good for the centers and sites is the fact that the radio advertisements are free because they are public service announcements.  So the radio station picks up the cost for the advertisement.  Plus it doesn’t cost a lot to have a radio so radios are abundant among the less fortunate.  Plus this doesn’t call for someone to be able to read to get the information.

 Announcing sites in church are a good way to get the word out to a variety of people.  The main reason is because the fact that other non-profit organizations come to churches to promote their organizations.  Plus many of the people in churches go out and help the less fortunate people.  Actually some organizations pass out flyers to people in churches so they can hand them straight out to the people.

 All of these different approaches to promoting a web site are moderately successful.  However, some are more successful than others are.  The three that are the most successful are: flyers, pop-ups on computer terminals in libraries and centers, and being registered on search engines.  The flyers and pop-ups are successful because it can cover a large area and be very descriptive.  By registering the site on search engines it can be accessed easily by the less fortunate as long as they know how to use a search engine.  All of these methods make it possible for the less fortunate people to know about web sites made to help them out even if they have never used a computer.

Homeless Centers and Non-Profit Organizations

 All though the homeless centers and organizations are easier to promote than web sites it is by no means easy.  As with the web sites flyers, face-to-face, radio advertisements, and churches are also widely used for the centers and organizations.  However there are some ways a center or organization can be promoted that a web site cannot.  These different ways are advertisements in a newspaper, banners, phone calls, in different magazines/newspapers, television commercials, and even the local police department.

 As with the web sites the flyers, face-to-face conversations, radio advertisements, and churches are utilized in the same way.  The flyers are passed out among different key points in town.  The different centers get volunteers to go around and spread the word by mouth to all of the less fortunate people.  The radio advertisements are free because they are public service announcements.  The different organizations go to the churches and tell about the situation they are in and what they are doing to get help.  For instance Patti Kelly, who started PK Outreach, Inc. in 1995, travels to local churches to try and get help.  She actually has an agreement with a local church to take a certain percentage of the offering money to put toward helping the less fortunate.

 An advertisement in a newspaper is an effective means of getting the word out because even though it cost to get a newspaper many are left behind at places like in a trash can or in bus terminals.  This all comes from an interview with a less fortunate person from the downtown Spartanburg area.  It is not very hard for a less fortunate person to get heir hands on one (“Junebug”).  There is not a town that does not have a newspaper and most of the times the newspapers let the centers or organizations put advertisements in as a public service announcement so the centers don’t have to pay for it.

 Probably the easiest way to get the word out to a whole town with not much effort is by putting up banners.  The banners do not call for any effort from the less fortunate either because all they have to do is just simply walk by a banner and see it and remember the address and go to the place.  The only disadvantage that comes along with banners is the fact that the people have to be literate but one way to avoid this is to put key words on them that even illiterate people would recognize as help (“Whitey”).  For instance, just right shelter or even just homeless help center and they would realize it would offer them some type of help and if nothing else gets them into the center.

 This next type of promotion is not really effective in getting the word out to the people it is designed to help.  Rather it is targeted in getting funding from other people in the community.  Many shelters and organizations have volunteers who do nothing more than call different large businesses to try and get them to donate money to their cause.  Even though it doesn’t seem to directly get in touch with the less fortunate the big businesses spread the word to smaller businesses and it will eventually get to the people that they are targeted to help and even get donations in the process.

 Along the same lines as a newspaper article are all of the different weekly publications like Creative Loafing.  In the December 18, 1999 issue the homeless situation in Greenville, South Carolina is discussed (Crawshaw).  Also it tells all about the Greenville Rescue Mission and all of the things the center has to offer.  Some of these publications are free so it is readily accessible for even the less fortunate people to get.  The disadvantage is that these weekly publications only rarely do an article on how to help the less fortunate people.

 As odd as it may seem one of the most effective means of promotion is by a television public service announcement.  Many may say well how do you plan on getting the less fortunate people televisions.  Well the answer to that is not to get them televisions but getting them to televisions.  This is a quote from one of the less fortunate people that goes by “Porkchop” on how televisions help promote the centers.  “Many appliance stores have their TV’s in the front of their stores.  We just stand there for hours at a time and catch up on the news.  Every now and then a commercial will come up about local homeless shelters” (“Porkchop”).  This is evidence that this type of promotion is capable of reaching its targeted public.

 Believe it or not even the local police and hospitals do their part to contribute to the promotion of these centers.  According to Lieutenant Peter Mcnealy they are instructed to carry any homeless person they pick up on the street to the local homeless shelter.  Even the local hospitals are told to refer the people to the homeless help centers so they can go there and recover or recuperate.  This is not a very good way of getting help to a large number of people but the people who do find out by this method are very happy about the consideration of the officers and hospital workers.

 Based on the interviews with the people who work at the local centers and for the organizations the three most productive means of promotion are distribution of flyers, putting up banners, and public service announcements on televisions.  The flyers and banners are able to affect a large area just by being posted in heavily populated and heavily traveled areas.  The public service announcements are so successful because of the fact that the less fortunate people has access to them for free.

Street Newspapers

 There are basically only three main types of promotion for the street newspapers.  The main way that it gets promoted is the people on the side of the roads that hand them out.  These people are on the same lines as the homeless people and therefore they do not intimidate the homeless people.  So they are not afraid to go get one.  Two other ways that are moderately successful are the handing out of flyers and on the internet.  The street newspapers have a broader audience than any of the previous two, web sites and homeless centers.  This popularity is contributed to these three factors.

 Basically the flyers are distributed like all of the other times they have been used.  Except they are not as important as previously shown.  The flyers are not as valuable because the people are out on the street handing out the papers so why do they need to hand out the flyers?  Still they serve a purpose by covering a large area and letting large groups of people know by posting the flyers with the newspapers name on them and then where they can go to pick up their free copy.

 A majority of the street newspapers are on the internet.  This way they are readily accessible to a variety of people.  This helps the less fortunate because the upper class get a hold on these papers and see just how good some of the people can right and are willing to donate money to their cause.  Plus if the less fortunate people can get on the internet they can see the different street papers from all over the United States.  Most of the different places that have the newspapers on the net also have a little part dedicated to helping the people find a shelter in their area.

 Perhaps the biggest advantage that street newspapers have over web sites and homeless centers is the fact that the people on the streets handing out the papers are not upper class, snooty people.  Therefore the less fortunate are not afraid to approach them for the paper because they are not intimidated by the people selling them.  

 The street newspapers have a bigger audience than the web sites and the homeless centers.  Based on a conversation with a homeless guy, “Pinky”, in the Spartanburg area here are the reasons of this is the fact that the papers are written by the less fortunate people so it is easier for them to associate with the writer.  They have nothing in common with the people who write these other big time publishings.  Another factor is the street papers are free.  The final reason the street newspapers are so much more promoted are the facts that the face-to-face promotion is so great.  When one person gets a paper they can’t help but tell all their companions about what they read and it is so easy to relate with the writer because the writer is one of them, the less fortunate (“Pinky”).

 All of these factors combined are what make the street newspapers more effective in getting the attention of the less fortunate than the web sites and the help centers.  When flyers are passed out and it is available up on the internet it is pretty clear why they do so well.  When you add in the factor of the person handing out the papers is one of their own conditions it just adds to the reasons of why they are not afraid to go and get one.  Also another major factor is that it is like reading the works of their own kind.  When they see a big time newspaper they cannot relate with the people who wrote it.  However, when they see the street newspapers they are written by the people who are reading it, the less fortunate.

Conclusion

 These are three totally different types of help for the less fortunate.  Regardless of the type it is evident at how hard they try to get the word of the opportunity they offer to their audience.  Until they learn how to overcome their big problems they are facing it will still continue to be difficult.  If they can figure out a way to overcome the literacy problem, the fact that the people in the tutorials aren’t willing to teach the less fortunate, and the fact that they need money donations or they are shut down.  When they eliminate these problems the organizations can start focusing solely on the problem at hand, the less fortunate people and getting them help.

The continuing problem of getting the less fortunate people access to computers is all that is standing in the way of web sites being able to help them tremendously.  The most effective ways of promoting these web sites to the less fortunate are by flyers, pop-ups on the terminals in libraries and centers, and by having the web site registered with search engines.  All of these have been proven to be very effective.

 When you move on to promoting the homeless centers and the helping organizations it gets a little easier.  The main reason it gets easier is because the fact that the less fortunate people can actually see these centers or buildings for the organizations.  It is not possible for them to see something that is in cyber space.  The most effective ways to promote the centers and the organizations are passing out flyers, putting up banners locally, and broadcasting public service announcements on television.

 Finally, the most successful form of help, as far as promotion goes, is street newspapers.  These papers are successful because of three main reasons:  the passing out of flyers, the accessibility of all the different papers from all over being posted on the internet, and the simple fact of the person handing them out.  The less fortunate are not intimidated by their own people handing out the papers, so they are not afraid to approach them and attain one of the papers.  These combined make the street papers so successful.

 There are still a lot of obstacles that remain in the way of the promotion of these great opportunities for the less fortunate.  When there is a way to eliminate the few problems that still remain the promotion will steadily start getting easier.  Over all promotion has come a long way with the increasing use of the internet.  Still there are a lot of boundaries that need to be overcome.  Using these different forms of promotion the web sites, homeless centers and organizations, and the street newspapers hope to reach out and be able to help more less fortunate people.
 
 
 
 


Bibliography


Work Cited Page
 

Crawshaw, Julie. “Homeless in the Upstate.”  Creative Loafing  18 December 1999:  Volume 9, Number 34.

Freeman, Anita L. “Promotion.” Email to the author. 11 April 2000.

“Junebug”. Interview. 22 April 2000.

Kelly, Patti. Interview. PK Outreach, Inc. 22 April 2000.

“Pinky”. Interview. 22 April 2000.

“Porkchop”. Interview. 22 April 2000.

Southard, Dee. “Web Sight Promotion.” Email to the author. 11 April 2000.

Stanley, Don. Interview. Spartanburg Downtown Rescue Mission. 25 April 2000.

“Whitey”. Interview. 22 April 2000.