Homeless tweets and blogs

Marc Horvath went from a high-paying TV job to homeless in under a year. "I was homeless on Hollywood Boulevard," he said. Now, almost two decades later, the emerging social media guru is trying to give the homeless a voice.

Marc Horvath went from a high-paying TV job to homeless in under a year.

“I was homeless on Hollywood Boulevard,” he said.

Now, almost two decades later, the emerging social media guru is trying to give the homeless a voice.

Using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, Horvath began crisscrossing America listening to stories from the streets, then posting them online.

And people started listening.

“I have had more than 2.4 million YouTube hits alone,” said Horvath.

“And this is homelessness, it’s not Disney.”

After speaking at a homelessness conference in Edmonton last year, Horvath decided to cross the country collecting Canadian stories of homelessness.

Horvath, who’s seen his share of horrors over his travels, began his Canadian journey in June and wasn’t surprised by much until he hit Whitehorse last week.

The situation here is “shocking,” he said.

It’s not just the inflated cost of living in the territory, or the dearth of homeless services that surprised Horvath.

He’s seen those things before.

It’s the fact that the Yukon government has been holding onto almost $20 million in housing money for years.

“I always say bureaucracy kills, and this is a good example,” he said. “Here you are months away from winter and they’re sitting on millions of dollars and they just want to do more research.”

Communities tend to deal with homelessness in one of two ways, he said.

“They either ignore the issue and try to push it away – like moving a tent city – and it never goes away, or you embrace it and start figuring out solutions,” he said.

The territory is clearly ignoring the situation, he said.

Horvath generally tries to avoid wading into the political arena.

But the Yukon government’s inaction is

“unfathomable,” he said.

“That $18 million probably goes pretty fast, but it isn’t going to save any lives sitting in a bank.”

The other thing that surprised Horvath about Whitehorse is how little separation there is between the homeless and the housed.

“I can walk around Vancouver or Kelowna or other cities and I can pretty much narrow it down and say, that person is experiencing homelessness, that is a street person,” he said. “Here, there is no way to tell, unless it’s that chronic drunk person that we all know is out there.”

In Whitehorse, Horvath was collecting stories for Invisablepeople.tv, a project he started after becoming homeless a second time.

The first time, on Hollywood Boulevard, Horvath blames his addictions.

After becoming clean and sober, Horvath pulled his life back together, only to find himself nosediving back into homelessness 10 years later when the economy tanked and the bank foreclosed on his house.

That’s when he started empowering the homeless community by teaching them to blog, use Facebook and tweet.

Horvath also gives out small video cameras as he travels so the homeless can film their own stories and post them online.

Sitting in the Java Connection on Thursday, Horvath was distracted by his phone.

A steady stream of tweets were coming in from his homeless brethren.

“Someone was just kicked out of a mission in San Jose for choosing work over shelter,” he said.

Horvath wants to use social media to start an international conversation about homelessness and build a virtual community.

“Because right now we are not really involving the homeless in the conversation,” he said.

If consumers don’t like a business, like Air Canada, they can talk about it on Twitter, he said.

And if enough people complain, that business will respond.

Horvath wants to create a similar forum for the homeless.

“Homeless services are the only consumer services that don’t listen to the clients they serve,” he said.

“We need to involve the homeless in the solution.”

It helps put a human face on a problem that tends to dehumanize people, he said.

“What people see is the drug abuse, they see the addiction – they don’t see people,” said Horvath.

“That was always interesting to me because in everyone’s family circle there is somebody that’s gone through mental illness or drug addiction.”

Combating homelessness is a complicated problem but it’s a problem that can be solved, he said.

“I really believe we can end homelessness,” he said. “If I didn’t believe it I would stop doing this tomorrow.”

The model Horvath supports is “housing first.”

“You put somebody in a home or an apartment and give them dignity, and then you work on the other stuff, whether it be drug addiction or mental illness,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of housing first, as long as it comes with community and tangible social interaction. That’s so important.”

Whitehorse’s homeless need a champion, said Horvath.

“We’ve just got to stop this bureaucratic madness. Bureaucracy kills,” he said.

“Those people you see down at the liquor store here panhandling, even if you don’t give them money you’re paying for them. The smart solution is to embrace it.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

Local poet Joanna Lilley is photographed at the Beringia Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 20, where she will be hosting a poetry workshop on Jan. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Poetry for the ages

Workshop set for the Yukon Beringia Centre

President Joe Biden signs executive orders after speaking about the coronavirus, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris in the State Dinning Room of the White House on Jan. 21, in Washington, D.C. The administration announced plans Jan. 20 for a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after the Trump administration issued leases in a part of the refuge considered sacred by the Gwich’in. (Alex Brandon/AP)
U.S. President Joe Biden halts oil and gas lease sales in ANWR

“Its great to have an ally in the White House”

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 22, 2021

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Most Read