Panhandlers do not grow up dreaming of panhandling

Photo by Colin Davis via Flickr Creative Commons

Mark Horvath used to be invisible, back when he was homeless. He knows what it’s like when people pass by without acknowledging his humanity. Now he has a home, work, and the drive to rip away the cloak of invisibility that makes our neighbours disappear to us when they fall on hard times.

He is on a passionate mission with his vlog (video blog), InvisiblePeople.tv. Writing about a homeless man on Hollywood Boulevard, he says,

“Once on the street, people started to walk past him, ignoring him as if he didn’t exist… much like they do a piece of trash on the sidewalk. It’s not that people are bad, but if we make eye contact, or engage in conversation, then we have to admit they exist and that we might have a basic human need to care. But it’s so much easier to simply close our eyes and shield our hearts to their existence.”

Horvath started a road trip around America, to give homeless people a voice. In 2011 he brought his third road trip to Canada and says, “We’re using video and social media to expose the pain, hardship and hopelessness that millions of people face each day.”

On the InvisiblePeople YouTube channel, you’ll meet Brotha BlueStocking in Boston, Terra in Toronto, and even some of the people from two faith-based organizations in my hometown of Kelowna. Or you can go to the InvisiblePeople vlog and click on one of the people whose names swirl under the heading “Homeless Has a Name”.

The respect and love Horvath shows to the people he meets is what sets this initiative apart from many of the well-intended efforts to draw attention to homelessness. Horvath has walked the mean streets. He meets people as equals rather than as problems.

Catherine in Ottawa gave me the title for this post. She wrote her story about homelessness and panhandling and explains what it means when someone stops to chat, showing some small measure of caring. After all, she says, “Panhandlers do not grow up dreaming of panhandling.”  (Her interview is below.)

At the bottom of his “About” page, Horvath writes a message to all of us: “Please always remember, the homeless people you’ll ignore today were much like you not so long ago.”

(You can follow Mark Horvath on Twitter.)

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7 comments for “Panhandlers do not grow up dreaming of panhandling

  1. October 8, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Great topic and post, Cathryn. I’m reminded of the journey of Neale Donald Walsch … author of Conversations with God. Once homeless, he found himself transcribing words of wisdom from another dimension. Eckhart Tolle has a video clip of them talking together on his website.
    There is much to be learned from those who struggle to find shelter and the basics of life each day. But are we listening?

  2. October 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I’ll check out the video clip. Thank you for that, Daisy, and for your always thoughtful comments.

  3. November 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    That conversation really got me wondering about a lot of things relating to our personal and social identity. Even though Catherine talked about resisting the usual stereotypes of the homeless (unemployed, drug-addicted, etc.), she still couldn’t escape seeing herself as defined by her homelessness and by her family alienation. I suspect that family isolation and/or lack of resourcefulness on the part of family members are perhaps the biggest factors. On the other hand, some true loners are good at making connections by being charismatic. Most people I know would say that “negativity” is the biggest handicap. But the funny thing is, nearly everyone I know has one of those circumstantial handicaps and my area is famous for its large number of autistic children. In the last analysis, it seems that the people who most successfully fit in are those who accurately find their place in the pecking order and ask to be admitted. Whatever our talents and education may be, understanding how others perceive us and responding to that is key to survival. (It’s also crucial to protect your nest egg, especially if you’re a wife.) At any rate, I got these insights from that video.

  4. November 5, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Fascinating observations, Dorothy. Your photos show you have a keen heart. Your response shows you also have a keen mind.

  5. November 5, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Thank you, Catherine. It’s so refreshing to see such appealing accounts of the invisible people we rush by and overlook (often with the help of social media!) I worry that I will lose touch with my ability to see others as the interesting human beings they are, rather than as a blurbs and collections of numbers. I mostly go to Twitter to trot out my wares and try to remember that it’s usually all I can expect, but your website was a surprise oasis on my long trek!

  6. November 5, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Somehow I doubt you’ll lose that touch, Dorothy. Your antennae are waving in the wind, and you catch the drift of humanity everywhere.

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