A man who was once part of America's homeless population is touring the nation to educate and foster understanding among today's Americans in hopes of sparking change.
"I hate the term awareness," says Mark Horvath, the man behind the website >invisiblepeople.tv. "We are aware of homelessness but we choose to ignore it. I simply want to help the ignorance be replaced by understanding and knowledge."
Fourteen years ago, Horvath lived on the streets of Hollywood – the result of drugs, bad decisions and stress. Though he eventually got off the streets, he found himself homeless a second time due to the economy.
And he says cases like the former are typically what come to mind when people think of the homeless, but very often, cases like the latter are what lead everyday people to the streets.
"The invisible guy didn't intend to become homeless. I didn't plan on living on the street. Everyone on the streets has their own story, some made bad decisions, others were victims, but none of them deserve what they have been left with, and it is a reflection of our own society that we just leave them there," he says.
To highlight the stories of homeless people around the country, Horvath eight months ago launched >invisiblepeople.tv, a website that features raw, uncensored and unedited stories told by real people in their own very real words.
To bring even greater attention to the site and to the plight of America's homeless, Horvath kicked off his Road Trip U.S.A. tour last Wednesday with the help of a number of sponsors, including Ford, Hanes, Union Rescue Mission, and Dream Center.
Throughout the next three months, Horvath will visit over 25 cities and document his travels on his vlog, as well as Vimeo, Youtube, and social media networks like Twitter and Facebook.
"Social media, with its instant reach and impact, is the perfect information hub for >InvisiblePeople.tv and the stories I want to share," states Horvath.
Through them, Horvath hopes to reveal sights, stories, and statistics that many Americans today purposely avoid or ignore, including the fact that the average age of a homeless person in America today is nine years old.
"People don't choose to be homeless, yet this is the view that much of America has," says Horvath. "This needs to change, and the stories that InvisiblePeople.tv have shared and will share will hopefully be the first step in this change happening.
Although the United States is one of the most prosperous nations in the world, the unfortunate reality is that a majority of Americans (58.5 percent) will spend at least one year of their lives living below the poverty line, according to Change.org, a website that informs and empowers movements for social change around the most important issues today.
Furthermore, despite the overwhelming research proving otherwise, 85 percent of Americans wrongly perceive homelessness to be the only result of individual failings, such as addiction, laziness, or criminal behavior.
Having walked the road of homeless himself, Horvath is encouraging people to get to know a homeless person by watching their story on invisiblepeople.tv and afterward pause for a few moments and write their thoughts in the comments section, or maybe email them to a friend and link back to the vlog.
"By keeping this dialog open we can help a forgotten people," Horvath maintains.
For his tour, Horvath plans to make use of $45, a laptop, a camera, and social media.
This week he will be in Phoenix, Ariz.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Fayetteville, Ariz.
He plans to return home on Oct. 7 after stopping by San Francisco.