Kevin Hendricks has a new book out... its called "Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness" and it tackles the subject of homelessness and tells the stories of real homeless people, interspersed with reflections from social media experts, nonprofit heroes, technology executives and more (such as Chris Brogan, Jessica Gottlieb, and Scott Monty).
As Kevin puts on his website...
these are the gritty, unfiltered voices of America’s homeless. This epidemic is putting families, children, veterans and executives on the street. While their stories are often ignored, they’re not invisible, thanks to the efforts of InvisiblePeople.tv founder Mark Horvath. He travels the country collecting and sharing raw, unedited videos and gives voice to the nation’s homeless.I have a great deal of respect for Kevin and for Mark... and jumped at the chance of supporting this project. I am working my way through the ebook and have been inspired by what I have read so far.
These are the stories of real homeless people, collected and retold from InvisiblePeople.tv videos. Interspersed with those real life stories are reflections from social media experts, nonprofit heroes, technology executives and more, sharing their connection to homelessness and how the inspiring example of invisiblepeople.tv has impacted them. You’ll also find common misconceptions about homelessness and suggestions for how you can get involved.
It’s time to move beyond the stereotypes and stop looking away. It’s time to open our eyes.
I caught up with Kevin on email and asked him some questions...
(Thomas) First off... what was your motivation for writing the book?
(Kevin) I wanted to help Mark Horvath. In the fall of 2008 he was facing homelessness for the second time in his life. Instead of giving into despair, he launched invisiblepeople.tv. He started interviewing homeless people and sharing their stories online in raw, uncut videos. It was incredible. Since then he's crisscrossed the country twice, spoken at loads of major conferences and received press coverage from CNN, NPR, the Huffington Post and international outlets as well. And that's just the fancy sounding public effort. Mark's actual work has been helping all kinds of homeless people--everything from getting an RV out of the impound to giving someone a clean pair of socks.
My motivation for Open Our Eyes was seeing all the work Mark was doing and realizing he had no support. He's still on the brink of homelessness himself. He lives in a cockroach apartment in Los Angeles and his fridge is so empty he eats at the shelter with the homeless people he serves. That's insane. I wanted to create something that would serve as a dedicated funding stream for Mark. It's probably going to be more like a trickle, but at least it's something.
(T) How did you get to know Mark Horvath and what was the catalyst for seeking to help him? Was there anything (a vid etc) that particular sticks in your mind?
(K) I first met Mark (well, connected online) in the fall of 2008 when he was first starting InvisiblePeople.tv. My church was taking part in a 'sleep out to help the homeless' event that benefited the overflow shelter my church hosts every June. I was finally getting involved and I reached out online asking for donations. Mark was one of the few who donated--and this is when he'd been laid off and was facing homelessness himself. So that got my attention.
When he started InvisiblePeople.tv I wanted to do everything I could to help him. So since then I've been spreading the word every chance I get. What he's doing is amazing and he has such a heart and passion to help. It's an incredible story. I can't think of anything in particular that triggered it all. Just watch Mark's videos and follow his Twitter stream--it's hard. Sometimes I don't want to watch because I know it's so brutal. But those are the stories Mark tells. That's what it's like out there and we need to steal ourselves and be prepared to help.
(T) You seek to dispel the misconceptions of the homeless within the book... which of the misconceptions iritates you the most?
(K) I think the idea that homeless people are lazy and that it's their own fault really irritates me. People say 'get a job,' and it's just clear they don't know what they're talking about. Any of us could be homeless--so many of us are just one tragedy away from being on the streets. It's not laziness that makes people homelessness, it's a confluence of circumstances that conspire against them. And once you're down it's hard to get back up. Try getting a job when you sleep in your car. Try landing an interview when your address is a shelter. People quite honestly need to open their eyes and get past that misconception.
(T) Of the folks featured in your book, like Drew or Jennifer, which one struck a chord with you the most?
(KH) It's hard to pick just one. I think the stories of families with kids are especially brutal. David and Tish come to mind. Cecilia, Gypsy, Tracy. There are also stories of people who had that one tragedy. Tom's wife left him and he went on a bender and got fired the next day and that was it. Yong had her apartment burn down and the insurance check didn't come through and now she lives in a tent in the woods. Drew's family was killed by a drunk driver and he found himself on the streets. There was a pregnant girl in New York City--Jennifer--thankfully Mark talked to her on a day she was getting housing. That was a good story.
There are just so many. I think getting to know their stories and learning what it's really like can move us past our indifference and help us to act.
(T) Lastly, if you had three wishes, like the folks featured, what would you wish for?
(K) Oh geez, that's a hard one. I guess I wish people would help one another. I wish people had what they needed--whether that's homeless people in the U.S. who need a job or people around the world who need clean water. And selfishly, I wish I had the provision I need--it's been a lean year.