Documentary-Homelessness in America
Homelessness in America is an epidemic with no solution in sight. In fact, the issue is only growing—as seen recently in my home city of Minneapolis with the rise of its largest-ever tent city.
-Minneapolis Tent City, also known as "The Wall"
What's going on?
While experts offer some theories, rarely is there a comprehensive overview of this issue. So, I'm creating a documentary film offering just that.
With the story of the Minneapolis Tent City as its focus, this film will share the history, data, and stories around the issue of homelessness in America. This includes: the stories as told by the homeless themselves, the experiences and insights from those working with them, and various perspectives from the community.
-Some of the subjects I've interviewed
This project seeks to make sense of this issue, to uncover the causes and solutions while steering clear of the political sways so often affecting journalism today.
Would you contribute to help make this happen?
Much of the filming and research is complete. Here's what's next:
1. Hire help to edit the footage and design the graphical elements of the film
2. Conduct surveys at the Tent City to learn more about the causes of these residents' situations
3. Travel to Houston (Here's why: The Houston metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the country. It's almost twice the size of Seattle (#15) as well as the Twin Cities (#16). And yet, the Twin Cities has more homeless people than Houston, while Seattle has almost TRIPLE what Houston has. What is Houston doing different? To what degree does policy affect homelessness? My visit to Houston will help me find out.)
4. My time to work on, and oversee, all the aspects of this film.
-Me at my home office
Besides the trip to Houston and some follow-up interviews, I'm looking to have filming finished within a week or two. Then, for the remainder of November, December, and January, I'll be working with my editing team. And by the end of January (or February), I hope to premiere this film in Minneapolis—an event contributors will be given a ticket to. (For contributors unable to attend, I will release the documentary to you on my YouTube channel shortly thereafter.)
Speaking of social media, see many more of my updates and photos from this project by going to my Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter.
By sharing the stories and lives of those caught up in this rising problem, and by offering clear analysis of this issue, my hope is this project illuminates the best way forward for addressing homelessness in America.
Thank you for your time, consideration, and contribution.
Dear Supporters: Over the past four days, I have viewed all the hours of interviews and footage I captured last summer and fall at the Minneapolis Native American homeless camp. Unknown to me at the time of each individual visit was the degree of raw humanity, the story lines, and the lessons revealed by this project's entirety.
Since that time, I've been offering you glimpses of this work as part of a greater project on homelessness in the U.S. However, I've decided to make a change. I'm going to refocus all my efforts solely on the story of last year's tent city in Minneapolis.
The main reasons for this are:
1. This is a story deserving of its own movie.
2. My original project on homelessness in America was becoming too broad--to include many populations, many fields of study, over decades of history.
3. I can premiere this tent city documentary by an earlier date, with more public interest, and with a greater impact on the situation here.
In fact, I already have a date in mind for the premiere in Minneapolis: the third weekend in May (the night of the 17th or 18th).
This documentary will share the story of this homeless camp: its origin and growth; city and community responses; the hardships, teamwork, and tragedy of everyday life in the camp; and finally, its resolution.
Perhaps more important, this documentary will also feature the stories within. Where did all these people come from? What were their histories, present circumstances, and hopes for the future? And how did certain residents change (or stagnate) while spending months there?
It is my hope that in addressing these points, this film (presented from a non-political perspective) will open hearts and minds. It is also my hope to see you all the premiere. For donating, you already have a ticket waiting for you.
All other tickets sold (as well as a collection the night of the premiere) will go toward helping those individuals looking to build their lives up from the grounds of that homeless camp.
Between then and now, I'll be spending as much time as I can (and as needed) on this project. Look for more updates on the project and the premiere in the coming weeks. There will be much to share!
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, for making this all possible. If you'd like to help further, please share this project with others.
**Regarding my original idea of a series about homelessness in America--and all my collected material from Houston, Dallas, & all the other folks I interviewed around the Twin Cities--I will pick back up this project following the completion of the film about last year's tent city in Minneapolis.**
Just published today is this lighthearted video of a man in Arkansas I interviewed in December. I bumped into Ernal while driving down to Houston to explore the homeless situation there. In this video, Ernal shares his experience helping addicted homeless people. But we talked about a lot more than just homelessness.
The old-school good ol' boy offered many other thoughts on America and Americans today. He was quite a guy and made for a great interview (and video).
I wouldn't have driven down to Houston without your support, and I wouldn't have met Ernal if not for my trip to Houston. So, thank you making possible my ability to share these slices of life across the country and beyond.
I'm continuing work on more of these videos in between my steady work on my homelessness documentary.
I hope you're all doing well and that you have a fantastic weekend!
We started off at their headquarters on the Southside before hopping a bus to the light rail station. Right away, the guys were in service mode, and I've never seen a group of gentler men. So friendly, kind, and positive, it was rare that anyone--even in the roughest shape--would refuse to take the hand these guys reached out. And I'm talking everyone, whether they had been slumped-over, short-tempered, or even a group of drug dealers on a corner. These brash dealers softened at the approach of the MADDADS, and the leader of this pack didn't hesitate to follow MADDAD Robert to the side to have a one-on-one.
These connections are possible by MADDADS' unique and effective role being leaders, being non-threatening, and simply being helpful. Their presence is aided by years of good will and reputation they've built in Minneapolis communities.
I filmed the guys helping those inebriated, those who were cold, those hungry, and those looking for social services, whose contact info the MADDADS document for later phone calls.
Last night revealed two aspects of the homelessness epidemic for my upcoming documentary series: 1. How the homeless in cold Minneapolis use public transportation as shelter. 2. How the members of the community (MADDADS) are responding to the need.
And actually, there was third aspect: capturing the insights from the MADDADS, who themselves used to have struggles similar to those they now help, and who shared with me their thoughts on the causes and solutions to homelessness, addiction, and other aspects of struggle in America. My series will be greatly enhanced by these insights.
Making our final train stop for the night, we exited through the lobby of the station to see police tape bordering a pool of pink liquid. They hadn't even yet mopped up the blood wash water. And the victim of the stabbing, a young man, was there with fellow drunk friends. He had been bandaged up and shared the story--a senseless, violent act emblematic of the destructive place in which many Americans find themselves.
Thank you for supporting this project. It is because of you, I can reveal the organizations, service work, people in need, and solutions to these social issues. I'm still collecting donations, so if you'd like to help further, please share this project.
Finally, to learn more (and to help) the Minneapolis MADDADS, check out their website here: http://minneapolismaddads.org/
In between my work on the homelessness series, I'm sprinkling in a few other videos. Here's one such sprinkle: a conversation I had getting to know this old-school New Yorker.
Here's the description from my YouTube channel:
Late at night, while driving through the Pacific Northwest, I pulled into a roadside motel in tiny Tonasket, Washington. Chris the motel owner greeted me with his Brooklyn accent, and we stayed up a while longer. The old-school New Yorker shared his stories growing up in New York and what life is like now.
Enjoy this latest slice of humanity, my friends. Now time to get back to writing my script for the homelessness series...