Social Experiment Caught on Video Shows the Homeless Have Become so Invisible, People Wouldn’t Even Notice if They Walked by Their Own Families

Share Article

The NYC Rescue Mission staged a social experiment to see if New Yorkers are desensitized to the homeless.

News Image
I was once treated as invisible on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. I actually saw friends that I had known for years walk by and not recognize me.

A recently staged social experiment shows New Yorkers have become desensitized to the homeless population by posing the question: Would someone walk by their own family members living on the street?

The experiment features footage of unsuspecting people walking by their family members – siblings, spouses, and other relatives – all dressed to appear homeless. The footage was then shown to the unsuspecting people leaving many speechless and moved to tears. It reveled that to be homeless in New York means to be ignored, so much so that even family members are completely invisible to their own loved ones.

“It was a complicated project as we had to pull off a stunt that, unlike most lighthearted fare we’ve come to expect from hidden cameras, had quite an emotional impact on our subjects,” said director Jun Diaz. “The belief in this project was absolute and certainly helped alleviate the considerable anxiety I felt when I had to reveal the hidden camera footage to these people.”

This public service announcement, entitled Make Them Visible, comes from The New York City Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter that has provided food, shelter social services and hope to those in need for over 140 years. Both the video and website are an attempt to change people’s attitudes about homelessness and bring compassion to the over 50,000 New Yorkers often treated as invisible people.

The site experience features real photos and interviews of people the New York City Rescue Mission assists. Their backgrounds and passions are prominently displayed, making them and their stories visible for all to see.

“I was once treated as invisible on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. I actually saw friends that I had known for years walk by and not recognize me. With this project, we can help make the homeless visible again. We need people to understand that the homeless are regular folks, just like you and me, but they’ve fallen on hard times and just need a little bit of help,” said TJ Hadley, a current staff member at The New York City Rescue Mission who was once homeless.

The video can be viewed at To make a donation, visit

Silver + Partners, an independent New York based advertising agency, came up with the concept while Jun Diaz of Smuggler, a global production company, directed the video. Reactive designed and built the website.

CONTACT Stephanie Yang hello.stephanieyang(at)gmail(dot)com (310) 779­2114

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Stephanie Yang
Visit website