Telling the story of homelessness through social media, Mark Horvath has been able to share the stories of homeless people across the United States and Canada to millions of Internet users. I had the great opportunity to meet Mr. Horvath this evening at an event hosted by Homeward Trust Edmonton where he shared his story, as well as the stories behind his ongoing project invisiblepeople.tv.
Invisiblepeople.tv is a project started by Mr. Horvath after he found himself virtually homeless after the American economic collapse in the late 2000s. The project is dedicated to putting a face and story to the homeless through video interviews conducted by Mr. Horvath on the streets and in homeless shelters across Canada and the United States. To date, his videos have attracted over 2.4 million views and his project has drawn the support of companies like the Ford Motor Company and GMC, and Petro-Canada which have helped make his travels possible.
Does telling these stories make a difference for the people telling the stories? For some of these people, yes. During a March 2011 trip through Calgary, Mr. Horvath interviewed Donny Bixby, who was spending his nights sleeping in alleyways during the freezing cold weather. Donny had been homeless for 21 years.
This week, Mr. Horvath returned to Calgary to once again interview Donny, who is now living in an apartment and working two jobs. Following the initial video, Mr. Bixby was located by the Calgary Homeless Foundation, who helped him find housing through a Housing First approach to ending homelessness. CTV Calgary called it a homeless success story.
Alberta’s Housing First approach, championed by the Calgary Homeless Foundation and Homeward Trust Edmonton and supported through Alberta’s Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness, recognizes that one of the most important steps towards eliminating homelessness is by providing dignity and stability of having a home.
Speaking with CTV Calgary, Mr. Horvath contrasted Alberta’s ten-year plan to those in his country.
“In the States the ten year plan is pretty much a joke in most communities. Some are doing it, but not like they are here. Here in Calgary I think you’ve housed over 2000 people. That’s amazing for a community this size.”
One of Premier Ed Stelmach‘s boldest decisions during his time in office was to spearhead this plan to end homelessness in Alberta in a decade. Premier Stelmach provided the political will to guide the Ten Year Plan through its first three years. As he retires this Fall, it will be up to the next Premier to provide the political will to move this bold plan to end homelessness in our province through its next seven years. Let’s keep it going and prove Alberta can do it.