After being unemployed for over a year and losing his house to foreclosure, Mark Horvath grabbed his camera and started to use social media to help tell the stories of people experiencing homelessness. With a $45 start-up budget and lots of tenacity, Mark has used social media to reach a different stakeholder and change how people perceive a very serious social crisis that’s mostly ignored.
For people who haven’t heard your story before, can you tell us a bit about how a Hollywood Producer became a leading voice for homeless men, women and children across the US and Canada?
My big television gig was logistics for television syndication. From 1990 to 1994 I helped shows like Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Married with Children, and other syndicated shows get from the studio to your television. But by 1995, I had ended up homeless on Hollywood Blvd. I was one of the worst of the worst. If you had seen me when I was homeless you’d probably turn around and cross the street. But I am also living proof people can change when given the chance.
You share amazing stories of real people from across the country on InvisiblePeople.tv. What gave you the initial idea?
After losing my job, another job, a few more jobs, and then eventually my house to foreclosure, I found myself back in Los Angeles and unemployed. It was a very dark time. The boss who had laid me off from my last real marketing job had a book in his office of black and white stills of homeless people. The book, “Finding Grace,” is very powerful and gave me the original idea of a blog featuring homeless stories. After about a year of being unemployed, I was starting to go crazy. I decided to grab my camera and just do it.
What will people be able to walk away with from your keynote?
Well, whether you’re a nonprofit or a business, you’ll definitely want to catch my session because for the very first time I am going to share how to effectively use social media for impact and how I made all of my great connections and accomplished so much for so little. Remember, I started all of this with only $45 while facing an insane personal crisis. YouTube has featured me on their homepage. I was the first non-profit cause to speak at Twitter Inc. Google blogged about me a few times. I won a special Pepsi Refresh award at SXSW (South by Southwest) getting over 30,000 votes. The Canadian Government has commissioned me to travel to 24 cities and help them fight homelessness. I’ve had the chance to work with major brands such as General Motors, Hanes, British Airways, Murphy Oil, and Virgin Mobile to help connect them to an unsexy cause called homelessness.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions you find people have about homelessness in Los Angeles?
There are so many! Probably the biggest are the individuals who think that guy on a corner holding a cardboard sign is the biggest demographic of homelessness, when in fact it’s actually the smallest. I work at a shelter in Glendale and if you saw 85% of our clients on the streets, you’d never know they were homeless. The media has reinforced the wrong stereotype of homeless people! Most homeless people look like me and you. Many have one or more jobs. They are normal people who are struggling to survive.
What are three things the SMWLA community could do to help you this month?
Visit http://Invisiblepeople.tv and watch a video…or six. Pick one video that touches you in some way and then share it. Go to http://unitedwayla.org/homewalk and sign up to run/walk in this year’s Home Walk held on Saturday, November 17, 2012. Some of the most visible people in social media have come together to create The Social Cookbook, an app-based cookbook to raise funds for InvisiblePeople.tv. The book features an all-star list of social media influencers like: Chris Brogan’s “Poor Man’s Shepherd’s Pie”; Brian Solis’ “Tortilla Espanola”; Peter Shankman’s “Mom’s Calming Noodles and Cheese” and Shira Lazar’s “Social Sangria” to name a few. It’s $2.99 to download, and all proceeds go to the cause.
Mark Horvath is one of SMWLA’s amazing keynotes. For more information and to register for his panel, visit: Keynote: Mark Horvath, Founder of Invisible People.