Can you picture yourself homeless? Maybe a visual will help!

An edgy ad campaign has appeared in the upscale shopping centers of Los Angeles. Life-sized cardboard cutouts of homeless people are forcing shoppers to take a second look as they pass by – and perhaps, for a moment, to imagine themselves in someone else’s shoes.

The idea behind the campaign is simple, but powerful:   “Before you turn away, put yourself in my place.”

We love this idea because it is so timely. With the economy slumping, many of us may have an easier time imagining financial crisis hitting our families. Even so, we often turn away from the homeless, or look through them like cellophane. They are the ones experiencing what might be our worst nightmare. We’ve all heard that people are just “one paycheck away from homelessness,” but we refuse to acknowledge that this malady could also happen to us. Why is that?

This ad campaign, meant to benefit Weingart Homeless Center in LA, refuses to let onlookers forget that homelessness knows no boundaries. At shelters like Coalition for the Homeless, we see hundreds of men, women and children each day, none of whom expected to end up at our door. As one of our former clients, Al, claimed, “No one ever plans to be homeless when they are growing up.”

For the sake of those you might not look in the eye, we encourage you: imagine your face in that cardboard cut-out. The insight you gain might surprise you.

(see’s opinion on the campaign here.)