Would you recognize a loved one dressed like the homeless?
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, April 24, 2014 2:51PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 5:41PM EDT
Would you recognize your own mother if you passed her on the street?
Maybe on a normal day, but you’d probably walk right past her if she was dressed as a homeless person, according to the results of a stunning social experiment carried out in New York City.
The New York City Rescue Mission, a group that provides food and shelter to the city’s homeless, recently worked alongside an ad agency and production company to launch the experiment meant to humanize the homeless.
The secretly filmed video starts with a question: “Have the homeless become so invisible we wouldn’t notice our own family members on the street?”
The answer is, apparently not, as five New Yorkers discovered.
The video opens with testimonials from the unsuspecting individuals as they talk about how much their loved ones mean to them. “Nobody meets in bars anymore, but I met my wife in a bar and, 34 years later, it’s still working,” says a man named Tom.
Unbeknownst to Tom, he walked right past his wife – and even looked right at her – on his way to the interview.
He can only shake his head after seeing the video for himself.
Fathers, mothers, brothers, cousins, wives, aunts and uncles – they all go unnoticed when their relatives walk by. One after another, they talk about how much they love their family, only to burst into tears when they realize they’ve just turned a blind eye to those same loved ones.
One man stops and stares right at his disguised cousin, then continues on his way.
“That’s my cousin,” he says when he sees the clip. “I know she’s not homeless because I just hung out with her a couple weeks ago, but I did not know that that person, when I was walking by, was her.”
Each person then goes back out to the street and hugs his or her loved ones.
The video was posted to the New York City Rescue Mission’s website, makethemvisible.com. “With the continued support from our community we can all work to end homelessness, one life at a time,” says the website.
The site includes a slideshow of photographs from actual homeless people, along with brief quotes about their lives.
“I’m starting tech school in July,” says William of North New Jersey. “I’m doing it all for my daughter and my son. They’re eight and twelve. I want to be a father to them. That’s why I’m here.”
“I look for work every day,” says Ronald of Tacoma, Wash. “It’s been hard but I’m hopeful.”