When helping hurts

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This week a distressing video surfaced online in which actual homeless people read some horrible things others have tweeted about homelessness. The video concept was based on the popular Jimmy Kimmel segment in which celebrities, athletes, and musicians read mean tweets about themselves.

Unlike the Kimmel segment, the video is not intended to be humorous. Created by a Canadian advocacy group, Raising the Roof, the video meant to publicize many of the stigmas, stereotypes, and general mistreatment of the homeless population by the public.

While I respect Raising the Roof’s intentions, I disagree with how this campaign was enacted.

Do I believe the tweets should be publicized somehow? Yes. The tweets Raising the Roof collected are upsetting to see and indicative of a very dark, depressing side of society. You don’t want to believe people actually say things like this, but the evidence is right there on your screen.

latte homeless

find jobs homeless

I understand the organization wanted the audience to have a more personal connection to the cause and to understand how the stigmas against homelessness are harmful. However, the decision to ask homeless people to read these tweets on camera feels cruel, plain and simple. These statements aren’t like the ones featured on Kimmel(“@Drake looks like Voldemort with hair”); even when those break into a truly “mean” level, at the end of the day Kimmel’s guests are living their dreams – or at the very least, they aren’t worrying about having a roof of their head or finding their next meal.

Watching the people in this video react to tweets about homelessness is heart wrenching.

heartless homeless

I know that Raising the Roof wanted to capture this emotion and turn it into advocacy and fundraising for their projects, but instead this video makes me want to admonish the organization for creating further pain in lives that already face so many difficulties. It feels like a case of the ends justifying the means, and I’m not sure they did in this case.