Tag Archive for Mark Horvath

Invisible People: Former Homeless Man Mobilizes YouTube

Looking for cansWe live in an amazing age, the age of information, which has a direct and palpable impact upon the issues we try to address. One great example is homelessness, a major focus of the works we produce. Not only is social media an excellent tool for educating the populace about the problem, but it can also give a voice to those who are experiencing it.

Mark Horvath is the premier example of this in action. A little more than 15 years ago, he was homeless himself. Then he stopped drinking alcohol and managed to pull himself out of it. Now he leverages social media to give a voice and a face to the homeless, particularly through YouTube on his channel, the InvisiblePeople.tv.

Christie Garton interviewed Horvath for her USA Today‘s “Kindness” column, after his second of the two cross-country road trips shooting video with the homeless (made possible by the Pepsi Refresh $50,000 grant and a car provided by the Ford Motor Co.).

Garton asked about the reasoning behind Horvath’s use of video in general and YouTube in particular:

Kindness: Why did you choose video as the medium for this message?

Horvath: Video changes the perceptions of homelessness. Non-profits traditionally only share success stories, and people end up detached from them. I wanted to show the truth. I also have a gift for video, and just felt like this was the right way to go even if I didn’t have the right hard drive or editing software. Who knew that so many people would want to watch videos about the homeless?

Kindness: Why did you choose YouTube as the platform?

Horvath: YouTube has a mobile application, which is great as 25% of our videos are being watched by phone. YouTube is also non-profit friendly, and has a partners program specifically for non-profits which allows you to raise money through donations and will feature your work on occasion. If fact, they featured us on the homepage for a day, and we surpassed 2 million views. It’s also a community with it’s own social network, which unfortunately, I haven’t had time to tap into.

Putting a face on the problem is vital, and it’s integral to our own efforts here (take a look at downTownUSA as an example). Here is the latest of Horvath’s videos, an interview with Kerry, Sabrina and Keifer taped in Dayton, Nevada. Horvath first met Kerry and his family months ago through Twitter (Kerry: @alleycat22469,  Sabrina: @bully_lover78, and 13 year-old Keifer: @keifer1122). On his blog, Horvath writes:

As I think about this family I get emotional. I cannot imagine raising a child in a small RV with no bathroom or running water. This family’s life is far from easy, but together they keep fighting, and together they stay grateful for the little things.

Being a native of New Orleans, I can understand the cramped-quarters aspect of their personal shelter. Five years after hurricane Katrina and the levee failure, and I still know families that are crammed into FEMA trailers about this size. While this family is lucky in that they are not actually sleeping on the streets, any thought that things are easy for them should be dismissed immediately.

I’d like to add our voice to Mr. Horvath’s call to action from this blog post:

If you know of anyone in or near Carson City, Nevada, that can help Kerry find a job please contact them. He wants to work. They will hopefully have housing soon, but the battle is far from over.

The fact that Horvath has been able to effect actual change through his efforts is heartening. Several people he has interviewed during his road trips now have roofs over their heads, or jobs, or both. Every one of those instances is a success.

Source: “Former homeless man using YouTube to give voice to homeless,” USA Today, 10/05/10
Image by Franco Folini, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Five Online Voices Twittering Homelessness

Twitter iconHello readers, today we are going to do something a little different. Instead of examining the news and data around the issues, we are going to supply you with some resources — so that you can explore the subject of homelessness yourself.

The social media platform Twitter has been in the news a lot over the past year. Even John Stewart has used it in his jokes on The Daily Show. Did you know that there is a number of homeless and formerly homeless people who use Twitter to share resources and information about living on the streets? Did you know that Twitter also has been directly responsible for helping individuals that are homeless? Here is an example from Change.org‘s Shannon Moriarty:

An LA mother and her nine-year old son have been homeless and living out of their van. Earlier this week, their van was towed by the city — along with all of their clothing and belongings. Horvath, who works during the day as an outreach worker for an LA-area shelter, tweeted the following message:

That message was received by several thousand followers. One person responded to Horvath’s message, and offered to purchase clothing, food, and even a few toys for the family. Needless to say, the family was thrilled; the young mother said it was the first time she and her son had received new clothes in a very long time. Horvath documented much of the event on video, and has since blogged about the entire ordeal here.

It may seem strange, but then again, who would have thought 10 years ago that we could carry several weeks worth of non-stop music inside our cell ph0nes? Truth is often stranger than fiction.

So here are five of the top people and organizations to follow on Twitter when it comes to the topic of homelessness (in no particular order):

  1. Lets start with Mark Horvath, the man who tweeted about the family in need in the example above. You can find him on Twitter under the handle InvisiblePeople.tv. His is quite the saga — going from being homeless himself to becoming the multimedia voice and face of homelessness — while using his website and a wide array of social media tools. For more background, read this CNN Tech feature about him, “Activist’s Website, Tweets Put New Face on Homelessness.”
  2. The National Alliance to End Homelessness is on Twitter under the handle naehomelessness. The people behind it describe the organization as follows: “The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization committed to preventing and ending homelessness in the United States. By improving policy, building capacity, and educating opinion leaders, the Alliance has become a leading voice on this issue.”
  3. Then there is Homeless Tales, the “home of the Street Voices project, where the homeless and formerly homeless persons discuss the issues and tell their stories.”
  4. The Homeless Civil Rights Twitter account examines the issues facing the homeless when it comes to civil rights and liberties.
  5. Chicago Homeless, written by Andre Franciso, tweets about the homeless community in the Windy City.

So there you have it, homelessness in the 21st century even has a digital side. Go check out some of the tweets we’ve recommended. We hope that you will find them illuminating.

Source: “Will Twitter Transform Homeless Services in 2010?,” Change.org, 12/20/09
Image by simezz, used under its Creative Commons license.

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The Man and His Birds

PigeonHUMANE EXPOSURES offers a penetrating look at society’s disenfranchised, questioning how long we can ignore the broken segments of our population, and at what cost. To aid in that endeavor, we have now launched our new YouTube channel, on which we will be sharing a wide variety of film clips and resources.

In The Fisher King, there is a scene with Tom Waits playing a disabled and homeless veteran. As he sits in his wheelchair, tin cup extended, he explains to Jeff Bridges’ character that “they’re paying so they don’t have to look.” It is a scene that really makes you think about how many things pass through your field of vision every day that you just don’t see. How many times have we assuaged your conscience with a few well-placed coins, and put it out of your mind? Probably so often that it escapes our notice that it’s not an object but a fellow human being that we’re “not seeing.”

Take a moment to recapture these escaped visions, look through the window we present to see a whole new world that exists uneasily in the same space as the one we walk through every day. For instance, how many people that walk past this man have actually noticed his amazing affinity for birds?

Video is a powerful tool for education. Seeing actual people and hearing their words often has a far greater impact than reading plain text. One proponent of this approach is Mark Horvath, whose work was featured this last Sunday on the front page of Google (as reported by The Huffington Post):

Activist and frequent HuffPost blogger Mark Horvath has dedicated years of his life to telling stories of the homeless through video (and an active twitter account @hardlynormal).

Despite an active following, Horvath’s message hasn’t quite made it into the mainstream. That’ll change this Sunday, when Horvath will be taking over YouTube’s homepage ‘with videos that smash stereotypes about America’s most forgotten citizens.’

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how many is a video worth?

Source: “YouTube Dedicates Homepage To Homelessness On Sunday, August 22,” The Huffington Post, 08/20/10
Image by OliBac, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Addressing Homeless Issues: IDignity Assists With Identification Woes

HomelessThere are many social obstacles for the homeless. Things that we take for granted in our day-to-day lives may suddenly become seemingly insurmountable problems. In many cases, it can turn out to be something no one thinks of.

One example is the issue of identification. Most of us, at one point or another, have had to replace a lost ID. It is never a fun process. Now imagine how much worse it would be if you did not have a home or copies of the paperwork required to get a new ID. Suddenly, the possibility of a job is out of reach, the ability to cash a check is lost, and so many other aspects of modern society become inaccessible.

As we watch the numbers of the homeless swell during the nation’s economic woes, we are also seeing some interesting responses to their plight. Since modern society makes carrying ID essential for conducting one’s normal day-to-day affairs, the idea of an ID Clinic seems almost inevitable.

The first instance of an effort to assist the homeless with the paperwork required for daily life is the brainchild of Jacqueline Dowd, who founded IDignity in Central Florida. The project aims at navigating the paper trail along with the homeless, making sure that the correct forms are filled, and providing advice and guidance through the process.

Here’s a partial description of the program from the IDignity website:

Volunteers will serve in a wide variety of roles including: introducing the process to clients, filling out forms for clients, assisting agencies or shepherding clients through the process. Interestingly, most of the volunteers leave these events feeling that they have been served themselves and regularly return with a desire to do more. It is estimated that in order to continue the program through 2010 it will cost an average of $12,000 per event.

The documents that IDignity provides are required to apply for employment or school, obtain access to most shelters, vote, seek help from many social service programs, open a bank account or cash a check, secure housing or overcome many other obstacles to becoming self-sufficient.

Below is a short video interview with Jaqueline Dowd conducted by Mark Horvath. If you are unfamiliar with Horvath, he, formerly homeless himself, has developed InvisiblePeople.tv to give a face to the issue of homelessness. Horvath also writes regularly for The Huffington Post on the subject.

The lack of identification can be like a brick wall, confining a person to the areas outside of normal society. Effectively imprisoned, these people cannot interact with our communities in most of the ways needed for them to pull themselves back into mainstream culture. With more people becoming homeless at a frightening rate, in this increasingly documentation-oriented age, ideas like this need to be explored.

Does it prove effective? The Mayor of Orlando thinks so (from the IDignity website):

‘One of the biggest challenges for the homeless is lack of a personal identification card. The IDignity program is helping more than 200 people per month gain that ID which links them to critical services. It’s been so successful other Florida communities are borrowing our model.’ – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyers State of the City address on February 18, 2010.

What are your thoughts? Had this aspect of the homeless condition escaped you until reading this? Let us know!

Source: “Without Identification, People Can’t get off the Streets,” The Huffington Post, 08/15/10
Image by pedrosimoes7, used under its Creative Commons license.

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