“This video is personal.” So writes formerly homeless Mark Horvath. With some good fortune he was able to escape homelessness. Since then he has been trying to bring home the reality of homelessness for real people who are homeless.
I must admit I was not expecting his video to affect me so personally. It’s about a dimension of homelessness that we have all heard of… but few have ever seen. We all have said many times that a picture is worth a thousand words. Now I find myself at a loss for words.
I don’t think I will ever read, write, or hear the words “homeless sweep” without thinking of this video.
Two images, in particular, haunt me.
A few months ago, he featured her in a short documentary. In this video we see him discovering that during a “sweep” her only possession, an RV, had been towed away.
Monica lost both her legs three months earlier. She gets no other support beyond food stamps… Three months ago, Monica was living in a tent homeless in Los Angeles. The weather dipped below 30 degrees. Monica didn’t have enough blankets. Her feet started getting purple. Monica waited a few weeks to go to the hospital. She woke up after surgery with stumps at her knees. Both her legs were amputated.
But her story gets worse. The hospital exited Monica back out to the streets without any support. Imagine losing your legs as a homeless person. Having to relearn everything including how to go to the bathroom, yet not having any help. Sadly, it’s very common for hospitals to dump homeless people back to homelessness.
Now she has no idea where she is!
The other image has no name attached
A bent-over emaciated old man is trying to pull the few possessions he has on a makeshift sled. He is one of the very few lucky ones who was offered some kind of shelter.
Horvath points out the irony of the “sanitation” workers and law enforcement personnel having access to portable bathroom facilities. The city uses a 70 million dollar budget to “clean up” but provides no trash baskets.
Cities all over America are putting more resources into putting homeless people out of sight than working to get people off the streets. With homelessness continuing to increase, the growing criminalization will make homelessness worse. Mark Horvath
Sweeps and criminalization do nothing to solve homelessness – except costing taxpayers $70 million/year in Los Angeles alone. Stop the cycle, stop the insanity, stop criminalization and sweeps.
The kicker? Sweeps are an endless cycle of futility and wasted taxpayer money. Homeless people move what belongings they can out of the way for sweeps. The sanitation workers then throw everything away.
Mark Horvath himself has broken the mold.
After an extended period of unemployment due to the 2008 crash and losing everything facing homelessness a second time, Mark grabbed his camera and started to use social media to help tell the stories of people experiencing homelessness. With only a $45 start-up budget and lots of tenacity, Mark has used social media to reach the general public and change how people perceive a very serious social crisis that’s mostly ignored.