Henry Moses Thirkfield is a resident in San Francisco where, for over the past four years, he has lived on the streets. Called “Mo” for short, Thirkfield has helped provide valuable insight into the city’s vast homeless community by carrying around a Flip Cam and filming his daily experiences and interactions.
Thirkfield launched the video project with the help of Ryan Hupfer, a San Franciscan who works at a startup in nearby Silicon Valley. The two met after Thirkfield approached Hupfer for some cigarettes, who offered to buy him some food instead. Hupfer then began seeing Thirkfield nearly twice a day, as he travelled to and from work, and over time the two men struck up a friendship. One day, Hupfer handed Thirkfield a Flip Cam, suggesting he use it to capture his life on the streets.
Since then, Thirkfield has used the camera to document his experiences as a homeless person in San Francisco as well as those of other members of his community. Hupfer then took Thirkfield’s footage and posted it on social networking websites.
The response to Thirkfield’s videos was overwhelming. For many, they served as a window into a world they knew little about or held strong prejudices against. More than 1,200 people have “liked” Thirkfield’s Facebook page, “Homeless Mo”, and fans from across the world have left comments expressing their support and best wishes.
Hupfer has also set up a WePay account for people to make donations to Homeless Mo, and to get updates on how the cash has been used. The site has reportedly raised around $1,500 for Thirkfield – enough to help keep him sheltered and fed for nearly three months.
San Francisco has struggled to rein in chronic homelessness for years, with everything from the citywide programmes such as Care not Cash to more grassroots efforts. In a city of around 805,235 people, there are roughly 6,455 homeless.
In the video below, Thirkfield meets a man named Andrew, who explains that he has only been homeless for a few weeks and describes the challenges of finding a “safe place to sleep”.