You Won't Be Laughing When You Watch People Read Mean Tweets About the Homeless

The PSA from a Canadian nonprofit might make you cry, but not because it's funny.
Apr 1, 2015·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Over the past few years the online bullying of celebrities and public figures on Twitter has been expertly mocked through the Jimmy Kimmel Live! segment “Mean Tweets.” But while seeing President Obama or Sofia Vergara read some of the things people have written about them on the social media platform might make you laugh, it’s heartbreaking to watch homeless individuals read the cruel things some Twitter users have typed about folks who sleep on the streets or in shelters.

But that’s what we see in Homeless People Read Mean Tweets, a video produced by Canadian nonprofit Raising the Roof as part of its new Humans for Humans campaign. For the past 19 years the Toronto-based organization has worked to provide long-term solutions for people affected by homelessness. Along the way, the nonprofit has realized that a key part of getting more folks to care about people who are down-and-out is to put a human face on the issue.

"Only when this happens will people stop saying nasty things, stop assuming the stereotypes are true," Carolann Barr, executive director of the nonprofit told CBC News. "Then we can work together to prevent and end homelessness."

The organization found the individuals who star in the video, which was created pro bono by advertising agency Leo Burnett. The people in the clip represent a variety of situations that can lead to being homeless.

"A man homeless from birth. A mother running from an abusive partner with nowhere to sleep. A man who was well off and employed until his support structure fell apart. People who bounce from couch to couch and shelter to shelter. Youth who end up without family support," said Barr.

The organization isn’t the first to hijack Kimmel’s "Mean Tweets" segment to raise awareness about a social problem. In March, the Canadian Safe Schools Network created Kids Read Mean Tweets, which turned the spotlight on the bullying that middle and high school students receive online.

As for the homeless individuals, you might find yourself getting choked up as you watch them read the vicious things people have tweeted.

"The fact these words caused so much pain and created so much emotion was proof that people living with homelessness feel second class," said Barr. "The words hurt."

At a time when plenty of cities around the world are putting policies in place that are anti-homeless, it's a campaign is surely needed.