Daily Archives: April 29, 2011

Do Try This at Home (And Be Thankful You’ve Got One)

A caring videographer from California has made it his business to meet invisible people and turn them visible. And now his efforts have helped a homeless Canadian find a place to live.

For two and a half years, Mark Horvath has interviewed and filmed dozens of homeless people and shared their stories on his video blog (or “vlog,” as the young kids are calling it these days). Not long ago he posted a clip about Donny, taken on a freeze-your-face-off night in Calgary. In the video, Mark, who once lived on the streets himself, appears gobsmacked that Donny’s planning to sleep outside in an alleyway on sheets of cardboard. “It breaks my heart,” Mark says.

But after Donny’s video recently went public, in stepped the Calgary Homeless Foundation with a fix. This community agency hunted the streets to find Donny and set him up with a basement apartment – his first home in 21 years. Check out the housewarming video: just 8 seconds in, you get an exceedingly concrete sign of Donny’s exuberance. Mark’s reaction is lower key: “I’d love to take credit for that,” he writes, “but the truth is, it is the community that makes the difference.”

But by shining a spotlight on homeless people, Mark is lighting a fire under the community’s proverbial butt. His videos start conversations; they stir action. It’s worth taking the time to watch a few of the clips on his vlog. (I persisted past his tongue-in-cheek disclaimer: “WARNING – these videos will mess you up.”) What resonated most with me was the strong compassion expressed by the newly visible: When asked what his three wishes would be, a man named Randy includes a bid for world peace and a wish “that we could all just love each other.” Another guy, Gerald, talks about making choices based on morality, and says he tries to “bring out the honour in every man.”

Mark, if by “mess you up” you mean “make you want to hug someone,” then your warning is apt. People: watch his videos.

P.S. It’s my anniversary (sort of)! The first day of May marks five years since I started my good-deed-a-day project. I’m sending thick slices of virtual cake and gaudy party hats to all the readers and subscribers who visit this space and keep the theme going. Bonne fête!