Monday, 30 August 2010

Becoming visible


What most people think as a homeless person is that guy in dirty clothes asking for money in the metro. He quite propably is homeless, but there are also many other ways of being homeless. Many homeless people have children, some have jobs, some live in motels or hotels and not all use drugs.

Mark Horvath aka @hardlynormal on Twitter is utilising social media to fight homelessness. He himself used to live on the street in Hollywood in the 90s. He's active on Twitter and has started a YouTube -channel called to tell the stories of homeless people. Since last November he has interviewed numerous people who don't have the luxury of having a place to call home and posted all these stories on YouTube. Most of us walk past homeless people daily without even notising. Mark Horvath is making these people visible by telling their stories and encouraging homeless people to tell their stories themselfs vai different online services.

In addition to filming and posting the different stories of homeless people he has made helpfull videos simply explaining how to join Twitter or how to set up a gmail account. These are part of a website called We Are Visible helping homeless themselves share their stories with the world and become visible.  This may sound simple, but it may be very empowering for someone who's lived on the streets for some time.

Why it makes me happy?

Of course the fact that people ar homeless does not make me happy at all, quite the contrary. But I think this is a wonderfull way to make the world just a tad better place to live in. Raising awareness is a key to finding a solution. I think the videos in the project are truly powerful and Mark's personal experience of what it really is to be homeless gives a lot credibility to the project. After seeing these videos it should be impossible to go on ignoring the homeless people on the streets. Mark is also handing the initiative to the homeless themselves and thus taking the project to another level. He's not just helping people, he's empowering people to help themselves.

I think this project is a wonderful example of using social media for non-commercial purposes. This is a relatively cheap way of raising awareness and at least in most western countries computers and internet are accessible even to homeless. Through Invisible People I discovered a whole world of homeless people blogging and tweeting and sharing their stories. This has helped me to understand the phenomena better and think about more usefull ways to help people who have lost their homes for one reason or another. Unfortunately most of these people live in the UK or US and there's little I can physically do to help, but at least I can share the links and spread awareness.

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