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GoPro Camera Goes Homeless To Get a Closer Look at Apathy, Disdain

( [email protected] ) Apr 16, 2014 06:18 PM EDT

GoPro Homeless
Kevin Adler fits the GoPro camera on to homeless man Adam Reichart, the first to wear the GoPro for the Homeless GoPro project. (Photo: homelessgopro.com)

When most people think GoPro, they think about being inside the curl of a giant wave with a pro surfer, or flying off the side of a mountain with an extreme skier, or jumping out of...space...?? Yep.  Jumping out of Space.  Last October Felix Buamgartner did just that, from about 25 miles up, with multiple GoPro Hero cameras strapped on to take us all for the amazing ride from so high above.    

Although all of the awe-inspiring stunts and extreme footage from humanity's most confident and capable is amazing, and after the GoPro cameras started to gain in popularity Youtube seemed blanketed with this type of extreme footage, some people these days would like to see the wearable cameras employed to get a perspective a bit closer to the rest of us.

Kevin Adler, a 29-year-old sociologist and education technology entrepreneur from San Francisco, would like to see the camera used to tell the story of some of the most humble and downtrodden our planet has to offer. He calls the project Homeless GoPro, and his inspiration comes from what he holds closest: His family and community, his faith, and the memory of his uncle.  

Adler had been called to do something meaningful about street poverty since blogging last year about the 2004 death of his homeless uncle in Santa Cruz.  Incorporating GoPro cameras into the equation,  came out of talks with homeless people and fellow tech innovators after he felt the initial inspiration.

"This project is about building empathy," Adler told SFGate in a recent interview. "We walk by the homeless every day, and sometimes we smile, sometimes we give a dollar, sometimes we do nothing. But what do most people really know about those they are walking by?"

Adler knows what his uncle Mark went through, he saw it first hand.  

Homeless GoPro founder Kevin Adler and his uncle Mark (Photo : homelessgopro.com) 

Mark, who was homeless and also suffered from schizophrenia lived a long hard life on the streets.  He spent 30 years on and off the streets and in and out of halfway houses.

Years after his uncle's death, Adler, a Christian, felt compelled to do more than remember Mark with just a simple tombstone and a plot of ground.  

"I wondered if there was anything I could do for the people still living on the streets, whose lives we forget or ignore each day," he writes.

Adler says that when he considered the question, 'Who is Jesus' posed by a  Reality SF project, he knew that he was on to something meaningful.

"When you consider that question,  and you hear the sermon on the mount, you know Jesus would be supporting the homeless," Adler said.

"He would be the one outside the gates, with the desperate and poor" Adler continued, " I thought, what better way to answer that question than the homeless. Working in this way pretty much embodies who Jesus is for me."

Well, thanks to a donated HERO3+ Silver Edition from GoPro, and  thanks to the first volunteer, Adam Reichart, Adler has embarked on an extreme GoPro experience to help shine a light on something else most of us don't know much about.  

"I started Homeless GoPro to increase awareness of what it's like to live on the streets, from the firsthand perspective of those who do," Adler said.

Accordin to the website, The project begins with Reichart, a 44-year-old homeless volunteer who has been on-and-off the streets for 30 years, the last six in San Francisco.  He works as a handyman when he can find the work, but still has trouble making all ends meet.

Reichart "had his share of tough breaks and losses," as he tells it, including the death of his mother, wife, and "drug use that spiraled out of control." Notwithstanding the constant challenges of life on the street, Adam overcame his addiction and has been clean for the last four years.

Now, with three adult children and his health deteriorating, he is tired of living in a perpetual state of fear for his safety and well-being, tired of being beaten up and robbed of possessions, tired of being exhausted at the end of the day and just a few bucks short of getting a roof over his head.

Reichart will wear the camera as he goes about day-to-day, documenting what it's like to be homeless, in hopes of giving some perspective to many who would feel as out of place in his position, as they would with Felix Buamgartner 25 miles above the Earth.  

"The goal is to build empathy, enable the non-homeless to walk with a homeless person for a few moments, and to explore how a camera lens associated with "hardcore" activities like snowboarding and surfing can showcase courage and difficulty of another sort," Adler writes on hs webpage.  

For Reichart, the project is about getting back on his feet, but it's also about exposing the breakdown in social skills and empathy that he sees people losing as we get more reliant on technology.  He is hoping the GoPro tech can help show how it is to be homeless, in hope that other people will realize the true plight of a person on the streets.  He hopes the use of this technology can help clean up some of the mess other types of tech has helped to create.  

"I really hope this touches a lot of people," he said. " I hope it opens their eyes and shows them what's really going on."