Homeless Man in D.C. uses Social Networking to Advocate for Others Like Him

Written by Nathan Rott

Eric Sheptock has 4,548 Facebook friends, 839 Twitter followers, two blogs and an e-mail account with 1,600 unread messages.

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What he doesn't have is a place to live.

"I am a homeless homeless advocate," he often tells people. That's the line that hooks them, the one that gives Sheptock - an unemployed former crack addict who hasn't had a permanent address in 15 years - his clout on the issue of homelessness.

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His Facebook friends and Twitter followers include policymakers, advocates for the homeless and hundreds of college students who have heard him speak on behalf of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Being homeless has become Sheptock's full-time occupation. It's work that has provided him with purpose and a sense of community. But it's also work that has perpetuated his homelessness and, in a way, glorified it.

Sheptock, 41, wouldn't take a 9-to-5 job that compromised his advocacy efforts or the long hours he spends tending to his digital empire, he says. He wouldn't move out of the downtown D.C. shelter where he has slept for the past two years if it would make him a less effective voice for change.

"Too many homeless people have come to look up to me, and I can't just walk away from them," he says in a recent blog post titled "Tough Choices." "My conscience won't allow it."

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Having 5,000 friends on Facebook is more important to Sheptock than having $5,000 in the bank. And he lives with the consequences of that every day.

Read more of this article at The Washington Post.

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