“I’ll never understand why homeless people smell of piss when you can literally piss anywhere.”
That awful tweet was one of the handful read by people living with homelessness for a campaign created by “Humans for Humans.”
The heartbreaking video is a play on Jimmy Fallon’s popular bit where he has celebrities read mean tweets about themselves.
But it’s different when Taylor Swift or Madonna read out loud the words of their critics; they’re usually in on the joke (and haters are gonna hate, hate, hate anyway.) When homeless people read these cruel and heartless tweets? It’s agonizing to watch.
“Why don’t homeless people just make themselves look good?” a man named Kubby, who has been homeless for 47 years, reads. “I don’t help yellow teeth.” He leans back in shock from what he’s just read.
“Wow,” he says.
As you can probably imagine, a video like this, which was created to help ignorant people see another side of homelessness, includes folks from all walks of life. There are people who have been homeless for decades, like Kubby. There are people who have been homeless for a few years, like Kim.
While we don’t hear their life stories or their circumstances, it’s clear that the message being sent from this video is one of humanization, compassion, and empathy for our fellow man and woman.
Nico Lang, a writer for The Daily Dot, wrote about this video in an essay entitled “Homeless people aren’t your clickbait,” saying it takes much more than watching a 90-second video and feeling bad to actually combat the issue at hand.
Lang writes about an encounter with a man begging for money in New York City’s Columbus Circle.
Everyone passing this man on the street was ignoring him. The man eventually just started to yell, “I am a human being! I am a human being!” He was desperate to be recognised as an equal to the well-off people that were, quite literally, walking over him like he was garbage.
The video is intended to do the same thing the man outside of Columbus Circle asked me to those years ago: stare into the face of homeless people and see the ways in which our own prejudices and casual cruelty affect them. While that’s an admirable goal, a minute of emotionally manipulative clickbait isn’t doing much to help Paul or Peter, who will be living on the street tonight no matter how bad Raise the Roof makes you feel about your Twitter habits.
“It’s easy to become numb to the poverty and devastation around you, by either blaming it on those most afflicted by structural inequality or pretending not to see them altogether,” Lang writes.
Watching a video like this doesn’t make a difference in the lives of the Peters and the Kubbys of the world. But if the video inspires you and humbles you to do and be better, maybe it will.