“I hate the homeless. I don’t feel sorry for you. If you want change, let me throw it at you as hard as I can at your dirty face.” Thus begins a heartbreaking video that has gone viral this week. The powerful PSA shows people who are experiencing homelessness reading mean tweets about their situation — and it’s no laughing matter. The video shows that though we laugh at the “Mean Tweets” segments on “Jimmey Kimmel Live!”, whether the celebrities who read about themselves laugh or not (they have feelings, too), treating people with hatefulness, whether it’s behind a tweet or in person via dehumanizing speech, hurts.
CBC News reported March 31 that the advocacy group Raising the Roof Canada, created the video as a way to change the conversation surrounding homelessness. Their new campaign Humans for Humans speaks to people who are experiencing homelessness and shows them responding to the comments they have just read. For example, to the tweet that reads, “I hate when it get cold out cuz then all the homeless people get on the bus :) [sic],” a young man named Jesse replied, “Buses are public transportation. That’s what they’re there for. Plus, they’re warm and get you from point A to point B. Just because they’re homeless, doesn’t mean they don’t have to travel.”
Dehumanizing people who are experiencing homelessness has to stop and it can only happen when “people stop saying nasty things, stop assuming the stereotypes are true,” said Carolann Barr, executive director of the nonprofit Raising the Roof. That’s why the campaign does so much more. On the website, hard conversations are started, bringing to the fore actual answers from those who are experiencing homelessness to those who might otherwise be ignorant of why or how people become homeless.
Wrote the CBC, “Barr points out that the people chosen for this campaign represent some of the many forms that homelessness can take.” One man has been homeless since birth, for example. A woman seeks refuge from abusive relationships but has nowhere to spend the night. Another who once was well-to-do, lost everything…and there are others, too, many of whom are invisible.
The nonprofit sought out ten people who were willing to talk about their experiences with homelessness for their campaign, bracing them for the hurtful comments. The words still hurt, even after three preliminary interviews prior to filming. “The fact these words caused so much pain and created so much emotion was proof that people living with homelessness feel second class,” said Barr. “The words hurt.”
“Their reactions [to the mean tweets] will remind you the conversation around the issue needs to change. All humans should work together,” reads the caption to the video.