"Have the homeless become so invisible…we wouldn't notice our own family members living on the street?"
Unsuspecting New Yorkers ignored relatives pretending to be homeless in a video posted by the New York City Rescue Mission this week.
In the video, recorded with hidden cameras in the city, five New Yorkers are made to walk past their cousins, fathers and other relatives disguised as stereotypical homeless people.
None of the participants noticed.
Before being shown the footage, each were asked about their loved ones. Many were speechless, embarrassed and moved to tears after seeing themselves unaware of their family members.
"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, this one had quite an emotional impact on our subjects," the video's director Jun Diaz said in a statement. "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."
A sixth participant was so upset after being shown the footage that they did not want to be in the video, according to the mission's director of public relations Michelle Tolson.
The ad agency and production company that produced the video hired actors for a documentary, contacting their family members to see if they were interested in a social experiment. Ad agency Silver + Partners came up with the concept for the video, shot by production company Smuggler.
The social experiment, part of a new campaign "Make them Visible," aims to draw awareness to the plight of homelessness.
New York City's street and shelter homeless population has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression, according to a March fact sheet from the Coalition for the Homeless.