San Fran Group Attaches GoPro Cameras to Homeless People In Dubious Attempt at Helping Them
Ways to help the homeless: volunteer at a local homeless shelter, donate to programs that provide services to homeless people...and hook homeless people up to GoPro cameras? In what is either an interesting empathy experiment or exploitation at its finest, a San Francisco group called Homeless GoPro have begun outfitting homeless volunteers with the portable cameras for the purpose of recording their experiences living on the street.
The group seems well intentioned and their website includes links to several organizations where you can donate to efforts helping the homeless, but since GoPro cameras are most often used for entertainment purposes — either to film surfers, skateboarders and the like or attach them to dogs and cats — and since the group refers to homelessness as "extreme living," it's hard not to get mixed messages from the project.
The project's stated purpose is to increase empathy for the homeless, but good intentions or not, will this sort of thing just turn the volunteers in question into a spectacle? I can see how someone might gain a new appreciation for problems homeless men and women face by watching these videos, but I can also see these same men and women becoming novelties — "Hey guys, check out this video of a homeless dude begging for change."
On a given night in America, around 600,000 people are homeless, and California, where Homeless GoPro is based, accounts for over 20 percent of that total. Homelessness has been declining in America since 2007, but veterans, former convicts, the mentally ill, and people living below the poverty line still have a high risk of becoming homeless.
Probably the best idea for combatting this problem comes from Utah, where they decided the best way to make people not-homeless was to give them homes. The state now provides homeless people with no-strings-attached apartments and assigns them each a social worker to help them reintegrate into society. The initiative has actually saved the state money due to fewer jail stays and ER visits, and has caused a 78 percent reduction in homelessness in eight years.
Until the rest of the country becomes so enlightened, though, homeless people will be forced to rely in part on the kindness of strangers, which is tough in a world where people don't have warm, cuddly feeling towards the homeless.
So will attaching cameras to homeless people help or hurt in that regard? Will it make homeless people more relatable or just something to gawk at from the comfort of a computer screen? You can decide for yourself by watching some of Homeless GoPro's videos below.