by: Jessica Fera Updated:
PITTSBURGH, Pa.,None - A former homeless man turned homeless advocate brought his cross country mission to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Mark Horvath stopped at the #1 Cochran GMC of Monroeville to pick up donations the dealership had been collecting from its customers and employees.
"We decided to give our customers a little bit of an incentive so we offered them the chance to make a donation and then they could register to win a pair of Steelers tickets or Pitt basketball tickets," said Leslie Ozer of #1 Cochran. "And then we also of course reached out to our team members and I want to say we got around $1,200 just from our team members, so they really stepped up," she said. "They bought toilettries for the men's housing facilities. Toilet paper, shampoo, razors, lots of food, so just things that are really needed, blankets, sheets, towels and those sorts of things."
With the help of dealership employees, Horvath packed up his GMC Terrain, which was donated to him by the company, so that he could make a special delivery to YMCA supported food pantries and transitional housing units in Pittsburgh.
"We serve close to 200 men through our two residential programs," said Carolyn Grady, Senior VP of Development for YMCA. "We have one at the Allegheny YMCA on the North Side and one at the Centre Avenue YMCA in the Hill District. The men will absolutely genuinely appreciate what is being delivered to the programs today and they'll make complete and total use of it. But I think beyond the utility of what is being given, it is, Mark was just talking about the dignity, and this communicates we care, you're important, we care. So that in and of itself is probably the biggest boost," Grady said.
Giving a boost to homeless shelters across the country is just one part of Horvath's mission. He also participates in speaking engagements and continuously adds content to his video blog, InvisiblePeople.tv. His blog, which helps to give the homeless people he meets during his travels a voice, has garnered major social media attention. Last year, he won a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Project grant for his idea to help the homeless learn how to use social media tools to better their situation and tell their story.
"There's magic in getting out of yourself and going out to help other people and that's exactly what I did," Horvath said. "I just went out and started empowering homeless people to tell their own stories. I'm living proof that one, homelessness can happen to anyone and two, you can never give up on people because lives change. Many years ago I had this great job in the television industry and I ended up homeless. Then I rebuilt my life to a three-bedroom house, a new car in the garage and a pool in the backyard and then this thing called the economy tanked. So after several layoffs and a foreclosure I was faced with homelessness a second time," Horvath said.
Horvath's incredible story is being documented by an independent film crew from The Kindling Group. The three-person crew joined him during his stop in Pittsburgh and plans to release the documentary, titled "@home," sometime next year.
"I really believe we can end homelessness," Horvath said. "If we couldn't, I wouldn't be doing this. One of the questions I always get is, 'What can I do to end homelessness?' 'What can I do to make the world a better place?' Well, as a consumer, you have all the power right when you go the store to buy something. Start buying from brands that are socially conscious. Start buying from brands that help change the community. If we start using our buying power and supporting companies like GMC that really do care about the community, we will make the world a better place," he said.