There have been days when the number of homeless in America has soared past 600,000 people, according to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Some 100,000 people are homeless nearly all the time, with not much changing including how they are seen by the rest of us.
A new short film that has gone viral says the biggest obstacles to helping is remembering that every homeless person is someone's daughter, son, father, friend.
The film shows New Yorkers, unknowingly, being filmed walking past a homeless person that they don't even realize is their own relative in disguise.
The project was a set-up of sorts. An ad was placed announcing a film being made about New York. The director was looking "for real people, with real opinions on the place they call home."
"We wanted an excuse when we interviewed them to talk about their family," creative director Howard Finkelstein of Silver and Partners ad agency told ABC News. "We really wanted to use those people to illustrate that this is a very common occurrence. I think everyone watching the video probably identifies with moments when they've walked past homeless people and maybe they knew they were there. But didn't acknowledge them or didn't pay any attention."
The idea was hatched by Finkelstein and Craig Mayes, who wanted to shine a spotlight on the homeless in a way that none of us would forget. They secretly contacted their relatives, who agreed to be on the street, each arranged to be out there when a loved one passed by.
When the subjects were shown the tape, their responses were wordless, or close to it.
"Things are a lot more real than you expect so," said Veronika, one of participants who didn't recognize her sister.
It's not the point of the film to single these people out. It's that no one thinks this is an emergency.
"Every single person you see homeless on the street is somebody's mother, somebody's cousin, somebody's daughter," Mayes, the executive director the NYC Rescue Mission, said. "If that relative was there and saw them homeless, they would drop everything to help them."
The film ends on an upbeat note. Each of the passersby, now informed, get another pass. They get another chance to do what they didn't the first time - to see and connect.
For more information, click here.