Mark Horvath (left) was recently named by the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness as the "Home for Good Champion of the Year" for his unrelenting support of its five-year action plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness in L.A. County by 2016.
Mark has taken his own experiences with homelessness, as well as his passion for marketing, and transformed them into a powerful movement called Invisible People which provides homeless men, women and children across the country with a real voice.
Below, Mark shares his thoughts on homelessness and his involvement with Home for Good, a joint initiative between United Way of Greater L.A. and the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce.
Why did you decide to join the fight against homelessness?
Decide? Like I even had a choice! Seventeen years ago I had a very good job in the television industry. Sixteen years ago I became homeless, living on Hollywood Boulevard. I rebuilt my life to a point where I had a three-bedroom house, a pool in the backyard, a new SUV in the garage and a 780 credit score. Then in 2007, the economy took a nosedive. Like many Americans today, I found myself unemployed, living off my credit cards and hoping for the best. The best never came, but several layoffs - along with foreclosure on my house - did.
By November of 2008, I found myself once again laid off. This last job had relocated me back to Los Angeles, then let me go after three months. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and, to be honest, I was scared of once again living on the streets of Hollywood. I could see homelessness all around me, but I couldn’t bear to look. I was turning away because I felt their pain.
But I thought, 'Don't waste a good crisis.' It’s a simple concept and it’s how InvisiblePeople.tv started. I registered a domain, paid for some server space, changed the header on a WordPress theme, grabbed my camera and started to interview people.
I honestly didn't think anyone would even view the videos. I was really doing it to release something that was deep down inside me and, to be candid, to keep busy. It was a really dark time and Invisible People gave me a purpose.
I'll never forget going into the first tent city. It was 400 yards in a wooded area where no help could easily arrive if I found myself in trouble. I questioned my sanity walking in there with a camera and a bag of socks. One smart thing I did was blast what I was doing all over social media so people could feel like they were right there with me. That day, my life changed. People started to tweet me encouragement and all kinds of support. The Invisible People road trip was born.
Now, I have traveled to over 60 cities in the United States and Canada and toured hundreds of homeless services. I honestly didn't decide to do any of this, but now that so much impact has happened, how can I do anything else?
When and why did you decide to get involved with Home for Good?
As I travel, I have found that the communities that are truly working together are the ones having the most impact. I support all initiatives that involve the faith-based community, the business community, government and nonprofits. Poverty and homelessness are too big for any one organization to fight. I know we won't always get along. But we MUST forget our differences and share our resources to help fight homelessness. It's the only way! Our homeless neighbors are dying. If you are connected to an organization that has not signed on to for Home for Good, WAKE UP! Let go of your egos and let's work as a team to end homelessness in Los Angeles!
If you're interested in learning more about the Home for Good plan, please click here.
Photo: Mark Horvath poses for a picture at the 2012 Home for Good Summit with United Way's Christine Marge, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Barbara Poppe and Task Force Co-Chairs Renee Fraser and Jerry Neuman.
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