What Homelessness Is Really Like

There is not a single time when I’m having a walk and I don’t see a homeless person on the street. I always wonder how they ended up in that situation, what happened with their families, where they sleep/eat/shower, how their social life is, what their aspirations for the future are… Of course, asking these questions to them can be a bit intrusive and each of them will have a very different story.

Among the different charities helping homeless people, I found Cyrenians which I found really interesting as they recently build a bot (a software which acts like a human being based on information taken from real people), Alex, who can reply to these questions.


Being aware of the problem

Alex is a MessengerBot (yes, you can talk to him using Facebook messenger) who aims to bust myths we hold around homelessness and raise awareness of conflict at home.

His answers were developed using an amalgam of case studies. He is 20 years old, from Edinburgh and he lives and works in the City Centre. He lost his home when he and his girlfriend broke up. Like a growing number of people, Alex is still in work but also homeless. He also has a problematic relationship with his parents. Alex messages from his temporary accommodation, a B and B (bed and breakfast) in Edinburgh.


Talking to Alex

You can talk to Alex by visiting askalex.scot – and use the promoted questions to engage with him. From there, you can go directly to the Facebook Messenger app where you can choose to type your own questions, select suggested questions or ask for hints. Alex will respond to the questions as best as possible, but sometimes he might not understand. He will tell you about his experiences as a homeless youth. You can also go straight to the Facebook Messenger app and search for @AskAlexdotScot.

I mainly used the suggested questions because I think they are very interesting and provide information enough to understand Alex situation:


Final thoughts

I think this is an example of good use of the new technologies. I really hope they can develop this project and add different bots to get to know more about how these people face their problems. I think Alex is a good example but it’s not the only case and I would say that, unfortunately, his case doesn’t seem one of the most difficult ones.

We usually take for granted many things that we have: our family, house, food, relationships… and we always want more and more. We aren’t never happy with our friends, our car, our clothes, the plans for the weekend… being aware of cases like Alex’s is not only a way to develop our generosity but also to think about all the things that we have and we don’t actually need. As you can imagine, we worry about things that Alex won’t even think about it.


You can follow the updates of this magnificent project by visiting askalex.scot, their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Lots of love,



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