Why "Doing Good" Videos are BS

Rebecca Lynn Craig

Chances are you’ve seen at least one of these videos. The narrative goes like this:

Person/persons in an urban, city area filming themselves on their iPhones or cameras. They’re excited. They’re pumped. Their hands may be full of grocery bags of food. Maybe clothes, or Amazon packages. Some of them have a wallet stuffed with cash. They approach people on the street. People who are homeless. Then, on camera, maybe after a short, lively (one sided) conversation, they shower these individuals with their gifts. Cue lots of smiles. Cue tears. Cue “Like and Share” and fun hashtags like #faithinhumanityrestored

You’ve seen those, right? Maybe you yourself have filmed videos like that? Maybe you’ve shared them?

Ready for me to burst your bubble?

It’s all bullshit.

And not only is it all bullshit. It’s exploitative as fuck. And it reeks of a savior complex, an inflated ego, getting high off of someone else’s suffering and at the end of it all: it doesn’t do a damn thing.

Let me break this down for you.

When Joe and his buddies with their phones out and recording approach people who are homeless on the street, it is almost always without their consent. It is showing a teeny, tiny, sliver of a side of who they are as a person. And the only side that is shown is often destitution. Dirty, outside scenes. The picture you see in a 3 minute video is a homeless person. Not a person who is homeless.

Not only is it dehumanizing, it’s exploitative. At the end of the day, Joe gives a man or a woman without a home maybe $20 cash or that same amount used to purchase a T-shirt or a meal. While that’s nice, this person (who is almost always left nameless, contributing to the dehumanization) is still sleeping outside at the end of the day, or in a shelter. That meal will be gone the next day. That money can help, but only goes so far. Eventually, the nameless person who is homeless who was caught on this video, will be forgotten. No one will know their name. No one will check in and see how they’re doing. No one will reach out. Joe? Joe and his video has become a viral sensation. Joe receives comments like “there should be more people in the world like you!” Joe goes on to film more people who are homeless, shares more exploitative videos, all of which go viral. Like. Share. Like. Share.

Who received more in this exchange?

Let me make this very clear:

People who are homeless do not exist to make you feel good.

People who are homeless are not like your cute puppies and kitties videos.

People who are homeless are not a heartwarming viral sensation that makes you tear up and feel inspired.

So. Now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way.

Want to help people who are homeless?

Step One: Keep. Your. Damn. Phone. In. Your. Damn. Pocket.

If you are for, whatever reason, taking your phone out before, during or after interacting with a person who does not have a place to live, you’re not helping them. You are harming them. Period. Full stop. Don’t do it.

There’s this nifty little verse which holds true regardless of your religious beliefs and it says, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

Honey, if your right hand shouldn’t know the good deed you’re doing, neither should Facebook.

Step Two: Interact

Smile. Say hi. Ask them their name. Strike up a conversation. LISTEN. Invite them for a meal. Yeah. A meal. With you. Check in with them when you see them as you pass by them again. If they’re looking for a job, keep an eye out for a job for them. They’re people. Just like you and me. They’re not all drug addicts. They’re not all terrible people. They’re not homeless because they’re lazy and terrible. So don’t treat them like they are. Reach out. Be genuine.

And when you’re doing all of this, refer back to Step One.

Step Three: Support Those Who Support Them

Reach out to your local homeless shelters. Domestic violence centers. Food banks. Reach out, donate, volunteer your time. Don’t think you have time? Think about all the time you’ve spent watching these “uplifting videos” in the last week. Think about the time you’ve taken to go out for coffee with friends. I think if we all decided it was important enough, you could find a way to carve out an hour to make a difference. A real difference.

If you’re looking for a place to donate financially, Candor would invite you to consider donating to Cornerstone Community Outreach. Since 1989, CCO’s programs serve over 500 homeless men, women and children in the inner city of Chicago, Illinois every single day. Donate your money. Donate your goods. Donate your time. They are a worthy outreach to support. You can find more information on Cornerstone Community Outreach and how to donate or volunteer by visiting their website at www.ccolife.org

Also. See Step One.

Step Four: Support Those Who Make A Difference

Vote in your midterm elections. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote for candidates who care about the homeless population. Vote for those who will do something about the poverty level in your city. Vote for those who aren’t hell bent on gentrification and moving the homeless out of sight out of mind. Vote for livable wages. Vote for affordable health care. Stand against cruel and inhumane laws and policies like spikes underneath overpasses, and bars over park benches. Stand against police forcing homeless people out of parks, out of their tents. Encourage your cities to do something, from building small sustainable houses, to converting abandoned buildings into affordable housing. Your vote matters. Please use it.

Bonus: Speak Out

Tell people these videos aren’t ok. Tell them why. Encourage them to share videos of their dogs instead. I think we can all agree that those make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. And it doesn’t hurt other people.

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