How homelessness can make even family members invisible | Deseret News National
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How homelessness can make even family members invisible

A wardrobe and makeup team dressed people as homeless and placed them on the street in New York City. Then, they planted them in the paths of their loved ones.

While cameras rolled, husbands, sisters and daughters came face-to-face with relatives on the street, and not a single one recognized their loved ones.

The video was created for New York Rescue Mission's Make Them Visible project, and opens with the question: "Have the homeless become so invisible we wouldn't notice our own family members on the street?"

The social experiment was shot in Tribeca and Soho near the mission's shelter, and shows how easy it is to ignore homeless people on the street.

To conduct the project, the mission worked with an ad agency and production company that hired actors who were told they would be in a "documentary video," while the crew secretly contacted their family members. Participants only learned of the experiment when they watched tape of themselves walking past their relatives. Many were moved to tears.

It's a simple exercise, but it helps illustrate research that indicates that people "see" homeless people differently.

Researchers at Princeton University and Duke University conducted tests on the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain, which activates when relating to other people. This part of the brain failed to activate when subjects were presented with images of homeless people. Homeless people were perceived like objects, according to Psychology Today.

"The experiment is a powerful reminder that the homeless are people," Craig Mayes, executive director of the New York City Rescue Mission, told the Huffington Post. "They are someone's uncle or cousin or wife."

Email: laneanderson@deseretnews.com