Would you recognize a family member who was homeless?
In a social experiment by the New York City Rescue Mission, unsuspecting people walked by relatives pretending to be homeless. Would they notice their family members? Or have the homeless become invisible?
That’s the question a new campaign — Make Them Visible — is asking. In a video produced by ad agency Silver + Partners and Smuggler for the New York City Rescue Mission, several people come face-to-face with their relatives and significant others dressed as homeless people. However, not a single participant recognizes their mother, brother or wife.
“There’s only one person that didn’t make it into the film — because they couldn’t handle the fact that they walked by their family,” video director Jun Diaz of Smuggler production company told Fast Company. “It happened every time.”
The jarring social experiment, staged in Tribeca and Soho near the mission’s shelter, shows just how invisible homeless people are to pedestrians on the street.
“We don’t look at them. We don’t take a second look,” Michelle Tolson, director of public relations for the New York City Rescue Mission, told The Huffington Post.
Tolson explained that the ad agency and production company hired actors for a documentary video and quietly contacted each person’s family to see if they would be interested in being apart of the social experiment. While the family members were in on the ruse, the participants had no idea they were being set up, and only learned after the fact when they watched themselves walk past their “homeless” family member.