I started getting into Google Maps a few years ago because I believe in people. I like to celebrate people. I try to see the best in people. That's why I'm excited to share that the "most interesting thing I've done as a Local Guide" is to help my neighbors - people who are experiencing homelessness.
There are an estimated 580,000 homeless individuals in the United States and about 1,000 of them live in my neighborhood of Santa Monica, California. More than 60,000 across Los Angeles county. It's a heartbreaking epidemic. After a few "smiles and hellos" between us, I asked a gentleman named Joe what I could do to help people like him living on the streets. He said there were a lot of resources out there, but it was tough to find them because he has "Finding Dory Syndrome" and always gets lost. He said he needed a "better map."
The official Local Guides mission is to share a better map for all, including Joe. So I started creating Google Maps lists just for Joe, so he'd know what his options are regarding basic necessities like food and shelter. We exchanged email addresses and I sent him a map within an hour. Joe was stunned and said, "you have really...., i mean wow. you raised the bar on the system in place. like you pulled this list together and created a new kind of policy, for how homeless info should be easy for them to see."
Since then, I've created six Google Maps lists that are aimed toward helping vulnerable communities and people like Joe. We even presented our idea to leverage Google Maps at a recent city meeting with the University Human Rights Initiative called Community Dialogue on Homelessness that maximizes dialogue by bringing people together from all sides.
I've even been on conference calls now with nonprofits in both, Florida and California to teach caseworkers and program managers how to create Google Maps lists to share resources and locations with their clients.
Joe and I now talk daily, dreaming and scheming of ways to distribute our Google Maps lists to people in need. Working on these interactive maps has given me a more meaningful sense of purpose and connection to the Local Guides program and profoundly changed my life.
Here are all of our Google Maps Lists in one spot:
Like I said, I got interested in the Google Maps Local Guides program because I love people. I believe in people. And I love to celebrate people. Joe said this in an email to me and a few case workers not too long ago, "this was a case where residents saved the day. that's the message. residents see and care."
It means everything to me for someone as special as Joe to know he's seen and cared for.
Helping my neighbors find critical resources is absolutely the most interesting thing I've done as a Local Guide and I can't wait to see what happens next.