In the same way that a GoPro camera can take you on a death-defying wingsuit flight or a motorcycle ride with a dog, one San Francisco-based homeless advocate and educational technology entrepreneur hopes the POV-cameras will give people a new perspective on homelessness.
29-year-old "sociologist and education technology entrepreneur" Kevin Adler devised the Homeless GoPro project as a way to allow outsiders to view the world through the eyes of Adam Reichart, a 44-year-old homeless man who has been living on the streets on and off for thirty years. Adler, who lost his own uncle to homelessness and schizophrenia in 2004, explains the project to the Chronicle today:
"This project is about building empathy," Adler said. "We walk by the homeless every day, and sometimes we smile, sometimes we give a dollar, sometimes we do nothing. But what do most people really know about those they are walking by?
"I just thought, 'Why not use the same technology that affluent young people use to capture their story, like snowboarding, for homeless people to share their stories the same way? Why not do more to build understanding?' "
Reichart, a former meth addict and handyman from Florida, met Adler and his team through HandUp and the city's Project Homeless Connect. Although his counselors say he's been clean for four years, Reichart has had trouble staying in shelters and continues to find himself out on the street, where he faces a daily stream of rejection as he tries to sell Street Sheets for $1 and panhandle for money so he can recover from oral surgery he needs.
"It's hard when so many people act like they don't see you, like you don't exist," Reichart told the Chronicle. "It's disrespectful. I mean, I am a human being. So are they. We shouldn't ignore each other."
As for whether this could be misconstrued as a exploitation of the city's homeless population (or, god forbid, devolve into something as tragic as Bumfights), Adam himself is listed as a co-producer of the project and considers the team close friends.
Adler's project, which officially launched today, hopes to expand beyond just one view of life on San Francisco's streets. In addition to telling more stories by equipping more homeless people with the action cameras, Homeless GoPro is encouraging viewers to take a homeless volunteer to coffee, to donate to Adam directly or to pitch in their skills and expertise to the project.