With so many Americans still out of work, I’m particularly sensitive to the plight of the homeless these days. It’s alarming to recognize how quickly individuals could find themselves without proper shelter for themselves and their families. I heard a statistic on the radio that homelessness has risen to over 10,000 in the city of Austin. Austin is particularly humane about helping the homeless with various community and local programs, as well as not criminalizing panhandling (it doesn’t work: read why). There is much work to do, but as cities go, Austin is more progressive than most.
Last week, Austin was visited by Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal) who is touring the U.S. filming the homeless in various cities . Take a look at some of the video Horvath has shot on InvisiblePeople.tv/blog Unless you’re truly heartless, it will leave a permanent impression. Horvath is succeeding already in his mission to “put a face on the homeless.”Alan Graham (@mlfnow) was introduced to Horvath via Twitter. It’s a huge testament to how social media can be used for social good. A group of us in Austin (@mikechapman, @jonl, @heatherjstrout and @bryanperson) collaborated on a social media initiative during SXSW to raise Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ profile. In short, social media has been the gift that keeps on giving for Alan and his team.In other homelessness news, I had the privilege to watch a documentary last night by local director Layton Blaylock, “Art from the Streets.” The film was a part of a local initiative currently underway by Lights.Camera.Help. another non-profit that hosts a film festival dedicated to promoting non-profit and cause-driven organizations. The documentary covers the amazing Art from the Streets program that has been held every year in Austin for the last 17 years.There is a similar thread linking the Art from the Streets program and the work done for the homeless by Horvath, Graham and others. It’s the compassionate interest in delivering something of higher value than heightened awareness, food, clothing or temporary shelter: it’s delivering dignity to a pocket of our society that exists on the periphery of our lives. I encourage you to purchase Blaylock’s film from his web site. It would be terrific if this film were picked up by a national distributor. It exemplifies, along with Alan Graham’s good works, how Austin is a model city for its treatment and creative resourcefulness in educating us who the homeless are: they’re us without our creature comforts.