Mark Horvath: On the road to help the homeless

Mark Horvath has collected hundreds of stories about homelessness while traveling across the U.S. and Canada.

Every story exposes an aspect of homelessness that most people don’t even realize. For example, did you know the average age of a homeless person is 9 years old? These are the homeless people most of us never see. They aren’t standing on street corners with signs, they’re just trying to survive. He told us, “With the economic crisis, we all have somebody in our inner circle going through some challenges that we never thought of years ago. Homeless people have cell phones. Homeless people have laptops.”

Not that long ago he was one of those homeless people with a laptop and a cell phone. He took his last $45, registered the domain name and went out to find homeless people and help them tell their story to a worldwide audience on the internet. As he travels, Mark does speaking engagements and media interviews to try to affect changes in homeless policies. He also tries to help people find housing.

At this year’s SOBCon (Successful Online Business Conference) in Chicago, GMC wanted to do something to reflect GMC’s theme of “Never Say Never.” In recognition of Mark’s dogged pursuit of the homeless issue, the brand awarded him a GMC Terrain equipped with WiFi and premium OnStar services to serve as his mobile office for 2011. He has now put more than 10,000 miles on the Terrain, traveling from coast to coast and up into Canada in search of stories.

Mark says his road trip is dedicated to Terry Pettigrew. He tells Terry’s story like this:

I met a homeless man who is 58 years old dying of cancer — he’d been homeless since 8 years old — and I interviewed him. Usually it takes a week or longer to get up the video. I try to go in sequential order. It just takes time. But I felt compelled to get his story up that night because not only was this old guy someone that I liked talking to you, he is dying of cancer and encouraging me. So I put it up that night. The local news media put the picture of me and him on the front page of the newspaper and put that video on the front page of their website. And his (Terry’s) brother of 33 years recognized the photo and recognized the video and they were reunited.

Terry Pettigrew died two months ago but he died with family. He had 11 family members at his memorial and was able to spend 53 days with his brother that he never thought he’d see again.

At the end of every video I ask people what three wishes they have. Terry only had two, but later on he said: “I really, really want to be around family when I die.” And he had 53 days with a loving family — I wish he had more before he died — because of

Take a look at the video below and hear about Mark’s personal journey from a successful professional into, out of and back into homelessness. Get a sense of how he views his relationship with GM and let him tell you about Rhoda’s ride in the Terrain and how it made her life a little better, at least for a short while.

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