Last spring Kevin Adler gave GoPro cameras to a few homeless people in San Francisco and asked them to record their daily lives. Then he posted the footage online.
The videos went viral. Reaction ranged from horror at the stigmatism homeless people face to indignant cries that Adler was exploiting vulnerable people. But the project empowered participants and allowed a downtrodden population to tell their own stories in their own words.
“We’re not just building empathy around homelessness, its homeless individuals and that’s why we start one conversation, one story at a time,” Adler told Fusion in an interview back in June.
Now, he wants to expand the project beyond San Francisco and across the country.
On Tuesday, Adler and his co-founder, Erika Barraza, announced an Indiegogo campaign to outfit 100 homeless people in cities across the country with GoPros. The homeless experience varies from city to city, Adler notes. The expanded documentary project will also offer insights about the needs of the homeless population to shelters and other service providers.
The end goal is to replicate the success of the first project and help shift national attitudes toward homelessness.
"This is absolutely an issue that affects us all," Adler said. "These are our neighbors."
Each homeless participant has a different story. Some have struggled with addiction and mental illness, while others ended up on the street after losing their jobs or families.
For Adler, the project is personal.
His uncle suffered from schizophrenia and lived on and off the streets for 30 years before passing away a decade ago. Adler says his uncle's life inspired him to take action to help the less fortunate.
Adler hopes to raise $30,000 in the next six weeks to fund the expansion of the film project.
If the crowdfunding campaign meets its goal, the project will start its expansion into Salt Lake City, Washington, D.C. and cities in between. Adler and Barraza will work with local organizations to identify homeless participants who are willing to document their lives. The project will then move on to other cities, but leave behind cameras so homeless people in each location can continue telling their stories.
"We're restoring immersive entertainment," Adler said. "Walk a mile in someone's shoes."
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.