New Yorkers Posing as Homeless Ignored by Unsuspecting Loved Ones in Social Experiment

( [email protected] ) Apr 29, 2014 02:43 PM EDT

Has society become so apathetic to the homeless that we wouldn't notice our own family members living on the street?

In a sobering video posted by the New York City Rescue Mission earlier this week, several individuals ignore their family members and loved ones posing as homeless people.

In a video produced by ad agency Silver + Partners and Smuggler, five New Yorkers are made to walk past their cousins, fathers and other relatives disguised as homeless people.

Shockingly, not a single participant noticed.

Homeless New Yorker Social Experiment
A man walks past his grandmother. (Photo: Screen capture of Youtube Vide/The Gospel Herald)

Prior to being shown the footage, each person was asked about their family members. Participants responded with shock, embarrassment and sorrow after seeing themselves walk past their loved ones.

"It was a complicated project as we had to pull off a stunt that, unlike most lighthearted fare we've come to expect from hidden cameras, this one had quite an emotional impact on our subjects," video director Jun Diaz of Smuggler production company told Fast Company. "The belief in this project was absolute and certainly helped alleviate the considerable anxiety I felt when I had to reveal the hidden camera footage to these people."

"There's only one person that didn't make it into the film -- because they couldn't handle the fact that they walked by their family," he continued. "It happened every time."

The social experiment, which is part of a new campaign "Make them Visible," raises awareness concerning the homeless.

Michelle Tolson, director of public relations for the New York City Rescue Mission, says the video reveals the unfortunate reality that the homeless are invisible to the world around them.

"We don't look at them. We don't take a second look," she told the Huffington Post.

The ad agency and production company that created the video hired actors for a documentary, then secretly contacted their family members to see if they were interested in a social experiment.

"The experiment is a powerful reminder that the homeless are people, just like us, with one exception," Craig Mayes, executive director of New York City Rescue Mission, told HuffPost. "They are in trouble and in pain. And they are someone's uncle or cousin or wife."

Homeless New Yorker Social Experiment
A man walks past this wife of over 30 years. (Photo: Screen capture of Youtube Vide/The Gospel Herald)

According to a March fact sheet from the Coalition for the Homeless, New York City's street and shelter homeless population has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression.

"It is sad that such a wealthy nation has so little concern for the poor," says Eric Timmerman of the Salvation Army. "We hope this video will be part in waking America up."