A year ago, many lives were forever changed after hearing Mark Horvath speak on the Gnomedex stage. Mark is the founder of Invisible People, and the man responsible for bringing a voice to homeless individuals everywhere. Mark is not only out on the streets helping connect people with services. He isn’t simply spreading the word about the problem. He is changing the perceptions that we have had for years – one story at a time. By giving homeless people a voice, Mark is changing the world – one person at a time.
Horvath – better known as @hardlynormal on various social media outlets – is quick to point out that this story is not about him. He will be the first to tell you that this is about them – the people he works tirelessly to help. He is simply an advocate… a mouthpiece, of sorts. While that is true, the man himself deserves much respect, admiration and support for what he is doing. This is why I am so excited about his newest venture. This is something I can totally throw my weight behind – and I encourage all of you to do so, as well.
Mark’s venture is named as it is for a reason. Homeless people often are invisible to the rest of us. We’ve trained ourselves to not see them as we walk by. We don’t want to know their stories. Too often, we automatically assume that they got where they are due to drugs, alcohol or laziness. Even though my assistant Kat has long been a friend of – and loud advocate for – Mark, she didn’t truly understand until she had a small experience while here in Seattle for Gnomedex last month. She was standing outside with a few other attendees during one of the after-parties. A homeless man walked up and asked if he could bum a smoke from them. Without thinking twice, Kat pulled out hers and handed a few of them to the man with a smile. He went still for a moment, and then an enormous smile broke out on his face. The man said, and I quote her directly: Thank you for seeing me, ma’am. No one ever SEES me out here. Those words shook her to the core. She and my brother Adam went on to have a half-hour conversation with this gentleman, learning about his story and his life.
THIS is why Mark does what he does. Homeless people shouldn’t be voiceless and faceless any more than the rest of the population. Even if they did get into their situation due to mistakes they’ve made, they still deserve the resources and compassion to help them dig their way back out. This is what We Are Visible is all about.
We’ve seen the power of social media in countless ways. We KNOW what kind of an impact it can have. Think back to Drew’s fight against Cancer, or to the earthquake in Haiti. We made a difference – a BIG difference. People pay attention to social media. Things happen because of social media. Mark recognizes this, and hopes to harness that power to help connect homeless people to the resources they desperately need to change their situations – and their lives.
@Project5050 sums it up best when she says: “It’s time to pull the tape off the mouths of those who truly understand struggle in America, and hand them the microphone of social media.”
How can you help? It’s simple, my friends. Join the Facebook page. Follow the movement on Twitter. Use the hashtag #wearevisible to help spread the word. As more homeless people find their way to social media platforms, they will need all of you to show them the way around. Help connect them to the resources who are also hanging out in your online communities. Learn their stories and become their friend. Change the world – one story and one person at a time.