Homeless Canadians brought to tears by the mean things people say about them

A new video campaign shows the terrible effect on homeless people of cruel remarks made on social media. Produced for the group Raising the Roof, the campaign aims to get people to see the homeless as human beings too.

New video campaign aims to get people to see the homeless as human beings too

Usually a "mean tweets" video ends in laughter, but this one ends in tears.

A new campaign by the non-profit organization Raising the Roof features people dealing with homelessness reading the mean things people have said about them on social media aloud.

The goal? To get people to see that those who have nowhere to live are human beings too. 

"Only when this happens will people stop saying nasty things, stop assuming the stereotypes are true," said Carolann Barr, executive director of Raising the Roof. "Then we can work together to prevent and end homelessness."

Barr and Raising the Roof wanted to create a campaign that would help people look past stereotypes about homelessness and see the real folks who live their lives without a place of their own to call home.

That's why the campaign is called Humans for Humans.

The organization teamed up with the advertising agency Leo Burnett, which developed the concept for the campaign ​pro bono. There was no problem finding plenty of mean tweets and posts highlighting some of the more pernicious stereotypes about the homeless: that they're lazy, that they all panhandle, that they're abusive toward others. 

Barr points out that the people chosen for this campaign represent some of the many forms that homelessness can take.

"A man homeless from birth. A mother running from an abusive partner with nowhere to sleep. A man who was well off and employed until his support structure fell apart. People who bounce from couch to couch and shelter to shelter. Youth who end up without family support," said Barr. "Homelessness isn't just the people you see on the street; in fact they represent a small percentage of the 235,000 homeless across Canada."

Raising the Roof worked closely with partner agencies to find 10 people in Toronto willing to share their experiences of homelessness.

Making sure all of the participants were fully prepared to read potentially hurtful statements was a big concern, according to Barr. Each person had two or three pre-interviews before going on camera.

Barr said that while the tears were hard to see, all of the participants were happy to help humanize homelessness. 

"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." 

The campaign doesn't stop with one viral video. Raising the Roof has also posted a series of videos in which the participants in the campaign talk about things such as how they became homeless and why some struggle with addiction.

You can check out some of those videos below and see the whole campaign here


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