In a provocative new video meant to draw awareness to the growing plight of homelessness in New York City, the nation's first-ever rescue mission documents how it carried out an elaborate undercover scheme to see if people would recognize their own family members if they were homeless and living on the streets.
The video documents what happened when unwitting participants in the New York City Rescue Mission's project were secretly filmed and eventually saw footage of themselves walking by their own spouses, parents, siblings, cousins and other relatives.
Watch the New York City Rescue Mission's powerful video, that just might bring you to tears:
While the video titled, "Have the Homeless Become Invisible?", might end on a happy note for those involved, the reality for New York City's documented homeless individuals (a growing number of them children) is anything but pleasant.
According to a March 2014 fact sheet provided by Coalition for the Homeless, another NYC organization which is also the country's oldest non-profit advocacy group focusing on the homeless:
• In recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
• In June 2013, there were an all-time record 53,615 homeless people, including 12,724 homeless families with 22,712 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families comprise three-quarters of the homeless shelter population.
• Research shows that the primary cause of homelessness, particularly among families, is lack of affordable housing. The U.S. Bureau of the Census has recorded a steady decline in the number of affordable rental apartments in New York City, at the same time that wages for low-income New Yorkers have stagnated or fallen -- thus creating a widening affordability gap.
• Research shows that, compared to homeless families, homeless single adults have significantly higher rates of serious mental illness, addiction disorders, and other severe health problems.
• Each night thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep on New York City streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces. There is no accurate measurement of New York City's unsheltered homeless population, and recent City surveys significantly underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers.
• African-American and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Approximately 53 percent of New York City homeless shelter residents are African-American, 32 percent are Latino, 6 percent are white, 1 percent are Asian-American, 1 percent are Native American or other race/ethnicity, and 9 percent are of unknown race/ethnicity.
Read more of "New York City Homelessness: The Basic Facts" online here.
The campaign video is meant to draw attention to the New York City Rescue Mission's "Make Them Visible" campaign, which on its website highlights "the real faces" of NYC's homeless population. In addition to requesting tax-deductible donations to keep its work going, the rescue mission was asking members of the public to share news about the campaign via social media to "make people think twice before walking by the homeless."
The New York City Rescue Mission, founded in 1872 by Jerry McAuley, who converted to Christianity while in Sing Sing prison, states as its mission a desire to "provide spiritual hope, food, clothing and shelter to people in crisis in New York City." The nonprofit organization provides its overnight guests with "nutritious meals, housing, spiritual guidance, medical/social service support and clean clothing," according to NYCRescue.org. Long-term residents are provided career assistance, financial training, GED preparation, and more.
Learn more about the New York City Rescue Mission's "Make Them Visible" campaign online: www.makethemvisible.com.