Tag Archives: homeless

Go Geeks: Mark Horvath Wins $50K

So homeless advocate Mark Horvath won the SXSW Pepsi Challenge. I stayed up until midnight on Monday night sending out tweets, bugging people to tweet and watching the parade of #RefreshGary hashtags come in. We went to sleep pretty sure we’d done it, and Tuesday at noon Pepsi confirmed it and announced InvisiblePeople.tv the winner of the $50,000.

I’m so happy for Mark. I’m shocked at what the guy has been able to accomplish with such minimal support. Most of us need a paycheck to do good work, either being employed by a nonprofit or having a real job so we can do volunteer work on the side. But Mark doesn’t have either (OK, he has the case manager job, but it barely covers his rent). He’s got nothing in his fridge and yet he still champions the cause of the homeless. He’s an incredible inspiration.

That’s why I didn’t mind spamming my friends. Heck, I can hardly call it spamming them when I’m telling them why Mark is so deserving of this grant. I don’t like these spammy tell all your friends contests. I don’t like that they pit good ideas against each other. I don’t like that somebody wins and somebody loses. I hope folks learn from that and do something different next time. But it was Mark Horvath and he needed the help. He didn’t ask for it, but this was offered to him I’ll be damned if I was going to standby and watch him miss an easy opportunity for funding.

$50,000 is huge, but it’s also not. It’s not an unreasonable salary for a person of Mark’s position in a nonprofit (that position being everything from CEO to camera guy to janitor). He could give himself an actual salary and restock the fridge and he’d be just fine in my book. But knowing Mark, he’s not going to be sitting back with this money. That’s part of why my little InvisiblePeople.tv book project is so important to me. As huge as this grant is, Mark needs the on-going support.

Anyway, we won. Geeks doing good. Awesome. Thank you Pepsi. Thank you Gary Vaynerchuk. Thank you everybody who tweeted. And thank you, Mark. This was the least we could do.

The video announcement and Mark’s “acceptance speech”:

Other cool folks blogging about the victory:

The InvisiblePeople.tv Book

Mark Horvath Ready for ActionI’ve been tweeting and blogging about the SXSW Pepsi Challenge all weekend (and will be until midnight tonight) trying to win a $50,000-grant for homeless advocate Mark Horvath and his InvisiblePeople.tv project. A few tweets could earn Mark the support he desperately needs. The guy has been on the verge of homelessness since 2008 when he started this project to help the homeless. That’s dedication.

I’ve been tweeting like mad because I believe in what Mark is doing. Unfortunately he’s losing to an idea supported by the tech site Mashable, a site with more than a million views a day. (An idea, by the way, that no one has yet invested in or proven—Mark has been doing his thing since 2008; OK, sorry. Shouldn’t rag on the competition, I’m just a little bitter about that.) I’m so passionate about this because a few tweets could give Mark some major support. It kills me that he doesn’t have the support he needs.

So I tweet like mad. But if all our frantic tweeting doesn’t get Mark the $50,000 he deserves, it’s not a total loss. At least we’ll have helped spread the word about what he’s doing.

But the reality is that I’ve been doing a lot more than tweeting.

I’ve got a secret: I’ve been working on a book about homelessness to support Mark’s work. In my wildest dreams I thought I could have had the book ready by this past weekend—conveniently in time for Mark’s appearance at SXSW.

Continue reading The InvisiblePeople.tv Book

I’m Going to be Homeless, Again

Handing Out SocksLast year I particpated in Cardboard Box City, an event where nearly 500 people slept outside at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and raised $11,000 to help the homeless. It sucked. I ended up getting sick in the middle of the night and having no other option but to stick it out. Basically I had a much more real homeless experience than I planned on, and it’s not any fun.

I’m doing it again this year on Thursday, Oct. 15.

Honestly, I don’t really want to. But nobody wants to be homeless. This is a small act of solidarity with the homeless to experience the tiniest taste of what they go through every day. And a chance to do some good. We’ll be raising money for the event to support Families Moving Forward and Project Home, two organizations that provide emergency shelters in the Twin Cities.

That kind of shelter is in high demand with the continuing recession. Last month I talked with a number of homeless people in downtown St. Paul with homeless advocate Mark Horvath. It was amazing and heart-breaking to hear the stories of people who had lost jobs or had one calamity too many and ended up on the street or living in their car. Most of them had become homeless in the past few months. The stereotypical view of the chronically homeless is not the norm. The majority of the people Project Home helps are children.

Your Turn
You can help the homeless in the Twin Cities by making a donation.

  • Homeless for a Night – I’ve set up a cause on Facebook that lets you donate and recruit your friends to the cause. It’s a great way to spread the word. (There is a minimum donation of $10 on this site.)
  • Donate Online – If you’re not Facebook savvy, you can use this online form and donate directly to the St. Paul Council of Churches (the nonprofit behind Project Home). The online form is a little convoluted, but on step 2 the 5th item lets you designate your gift to Project Home. Next you can note that your gift is for “Cardboard Box City.”
  • Donate w/ PayPal – You can make a donation directly to me using PayPal and I’ll pass the funds on to Cardboard Box City. This method would not be tax deductible.
  • Donate by Check – Make your check payable to “FMF” or “SPACC-Project Home” and send it to me (contact me for my mailing address). This method is tax deductible.
  • Donate in Person – If you’re in the Twin Cities you can just give me cash or check (made payable to “FMF” or “SPACC-Project Home”). This is also tax deductible, assuming you give me your address so they can mail you a receipt.

I hope you’ll consider making a donation and supporting my sleep out for homelessness.

If you want to learn more about homelessness, spend some time with Mark Horvath on InvisiblePeople.tv as he talks with the homeless and shares their stories. You can also check out 10 ways you can help the homeless for specific ways you can help (the advice on responding to panhandling is especially helpful).

Homeless Advocate Mark Horvath

Mark Horvath Ready for ActionA couple weeks ago homeless advocate Mark Horvath came through the Twin Cities on his InvisiblePeople.tv road trip. I had the chance to hang out with Mark, see him in action and briefly join him in his work.

We went to the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul (driving in the fancy Ford Escape Hybrid that Ford generously loaned Mark for the trip), handed out socks courtesy of Hanes and talked to homeless people. Mark tapped away on his iPhone, posting updates to Twitter, pictures to Posterous and recording video for InvisiblePeople.tv. It was a humbling experience, especially hearing their stories of facing one hardship too many and losing it all. Many of them had lost jobs and homes recently and were on the street thanks to the current recession. A homeless ministry was serving lunch while we were there and a number of people kept coming up and asking them for blankets and sleeping bags. Cold is coming in Minnesota.

Handing Out SocksI really value Mark’s perspective on the homelessness issue because he’s been there before and understands it in a way many people don’t. He also understands the practical realities. Frankly, it’s devastating to walk out here and talk to people, knowing I have a cozy warm bed and home, plenty of blankets, sheets and even a spare room. Whatever I’m doing to help the homeless, there’s always more I could do. I realize inviting a stranger into my house isn’t always practical (nor approved by my wife), but tell that to the person sleeping on the sidewalk. I don’t know how Mark has traveled the country doing this. He always talks about it wrecking him, and now I can understand why.

A few people asked me for money and I had to say no. I could empty my bank account handing out cash, but who knows what good it would do. I took great comfort in the garbage bag of brand new Hanes socks we were handing out. The very least I could do was hand out socks and listen.

Mark called me one of his heroes, but I don’t get that. He’s the hero. He’s the one practically homeless himself, living on the ragged edge without a real job or steady income trying to tell the stories of the homeless. On Tuesday night my wife and I took Mark out to dinner. It was my wife’s birthday and we’d gotten a babysitter so we could have some actual conversation with Mark. When the check came I got totally schooled in the credit card draw. Mark had grabbed the bill and slapped down his card before I could even react. Even the waitress was impressed. I tried to protest but it was too late. Mark insisted and paid for our dinner, including dessert. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s the hero.

Check out InvisiblePeople.tv and watch the stories of homeless people. Hear them. See them. Open your eyes and your heart. If you want to know more about helping the homeless, Mark suggested this resource, 10 actions you can take to end homelessness. If you want to support Mark and the work of InvisiblePeople.tv, you can make a tax deductible donation online.

What’s a Necessity?

Interesting article exploring a Pew Research Center study about what Americans consider necessary. A car is at the top of this year’s list, followed by a clothes dryer (not a washing machine? Survey FAIL?), air conditioning, TV and a computer. It’s kind of an interesting study, especially since things have become a little less necessary since 2006.

I found a few things surprising:

  • People consider cable or satellite TV more necessary than a dishwasher. Seriously? Without a dishwasher how do you have time to watch all that TV?
  • Older people are much more likely to think a TV is necessary than younger people. So TV isn’t rotting our brains—in your face, old people! Of course younger people are much more likely to think cell phones are a necessity.
  • The richer you are the less likely you are to think TV is a necessity—until you hit the low end of the poverty scale where TV becomes less necessary. The same is true for a veggie garden. The very rich and the very poor don’t have time for TV or planting produce.
  • The survey also shows that 27% say someone in their household has been laid off or lost a job and 21% say someone in their household has had trouble paying the rent or mortgage.

Generalizations, of course, but ouch.

It’s interesting to consider what is necessary in your life. Some things are pretty easy decisions, like cutting the cable or Netflix. But other choices are harder—that car payment may be pricey, but if you ever find a job how are you supposed to get there without a car?

These discussions become a little more real in the light of comments like this one.

You Can Change the World: Vote for Homeless

I’ve talked about the site invisiblepeople.tv before and the incredible work being done there. Mark is the man behind the site, formerly homeless himself, unemployed and on the verge of being homeless again. He’s been holding on for quite a while now and it’s great to see the site continue and help people start seeing the homeless.

You can help Mark and invisiblepeople.tv by simply posting a comment on this blog entry, thus giving your vote to invisiblepeople.tv to win a $3,000 grant. So follow that link and comment and you can keep Mark’s site going.

How’s that for easy way to do something important?

You Can Change the World: $5 Raincoats & Shoes

You can change the world this Christmas by buying raincoats for the homeless or shoes for the, um, shoeless. Two great, simple and cheap charity ideas:

50,000 Shoes in 50 Days
Anne Jackson teamed up with Soles4Souls to issue a challenge: Buy 50,000 pairs of shoes in 50 days. $5 will buy you two pairs of shoes. Soles4Souls gets shoes to people who need them, helping to keep them safe and healthy. There’s less than a week left in the challenge and more tan 40,000 pairs of shoes to go. There’s been some talk that this effort is more talk than action, that lots of people are talking about it but few are donating. That’s lame. I bought a pair of shoes (OK, two pairs). You can, too.

Dreaming of a Dry Christmas
I’ve talked about invisiblepeople.tv before, the site telling the stories of real homeless people. The man behind it, Mark Horvath, is working with homeless people in Los Angeles and has seen a need for raincoats. Michael Buckingham of Holy Cow Creative wants to send Mark 100 coats. He’s dreaming of a dry Christmas. $4.29 is all it takes to buy a raincoat for a homeless person. I bought one. It’s not much, but tell that to the homeless person getting soaked.

You Can Change the World: Blank2Clothe.com

I'm About to Yo-yo 2 ClotheLast week I yo-yoed and clothed a homeless teen.

Here’s how it works: Virgin Mobile set up Blank2Clothe.com where anyone can submit a video*. They approve the video and donate one article of clothing to one of the millions of homeless youth in America. That’s it.

But it gets better. Each time a video is watched five times, they’ll donate another article of clothing. So far 11 articles of clothing have been donated from my video and the site claims more than 100,000 donations so far.

So let’s care for some homeless youth:

Continue reading You Can Change the World: Blank2Clothe.com

You Can Change the World: Invisible People

Mark is unemployed, his home is in foreclosure and he’s six weeks from homelessness. Again. Sixteen years ago Mark was homeless in Hollywood. And now on the brink of homeless again, Mark is telling the story of the homeless. Armed with a small video camera and a slow laptop, Mark is talking to homeless people, capturing their story, and sharing the unedited footage on his vlog, Invisible People.

Mark is an example that homelessness can happen to anyone. I’ve talked before about homelessness being on the rise, and as the economy tanks it’s only going to get worse. Watch Mark’s videos and start seeing the homeless as people. Remember the words of Jesus: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” (Matthew 25:40 NIV). And take some action. Support a local shelter. Donate to a food bank.

And somebody hire Mark. Or better yet, somebody fund Invisible People so Mark can continue to share these stories.

Homeless For a Night

Homeless For a NightI wrote this article after my homeless experience and hoped to find a publication interested in printing it (and paying me!). So far no such luck, so I think it’s safe to print it here and at least share it. If you’re interested in helping homeless families in the Twin Cities, you can still support my Facebook cause (thanks to those who already did show their support!). For more on homelessness, I highly recommend the videos at Invisible People.

I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never had to wonder where I was going to spend the night. I’ve never had to contemplate sleeping in my car. I’ve never had to consider who I would call if I lost my house and had nowhere to go. I’ve never had to consider how anyone could possibly sleep outside in 42-degree weather.

Until last month.

On Oct. 16, 2008 I spent the night homeless.

The Not-So-Homeless Experience
Now in the interest of full disclosure I should let you know that I signed up for the experience. I didn’t lose my house. I didn’t have to consider sleeping in my car. I wasn’t actually homeless. I joined more than 500 teens and adults from across the Twin Cities who became homeless for a night and camped out at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to raise cash and awareness for homelessness. Our efforts raised more than $11,000 for Families Moving Forward and Project Home, two organizations that provide emergency shelters in the Twin Cities.

Continue reading Homeless For a Night