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.
Your donations from this past winter all the way up until just a couple of days ago, provided the fuel to keep this project going. And last night, I debuted this documentary about the the 2018 Minneapolis homeless camp.
I'll have a proper write-up and video to go along with it, capturing the evening. For now, I'll leave you with this photo and also this link to a local television news piece covering the event: https://www.fox9.com/news/-the-wall-the-stories-of-the-2018-minneapolis-homeless-camp-premieres-to-sellout-crowd
Once again, thank you all so much for helping make this happen. It was terrific seeing some of you there last night. For those unable to go, I have a ticket reserved for you for the June 3 showing should you wish to attend.
Wednesday evening I drove through the out-of-season blizzard conditions on rural roads around Lake Mille Lacs. My passenger was slumped over (or slumped back depending on her state). Her husband in the backseat smoked out the window.
I was driving this couple to the husband's mom's home, where she cared for two of the couple's children.
After almost three hours of what should have been a drive under two, we slowed along frosted trees to a white-covered driveway. Crawling toward the house, two kids came bouncing out. They greeted their parents with excitement the parents were unable to reciprocate. Heroin addiction takes a physical toll, and their neglect of parental duties has taken an even larger emotional one these parents have shared with me.
Still, the couple exited the car with a bag of belongings for their 10-year-old twin boy and girl.
Considering the circumstances surrounding the parents, I didn't expect such apparently happy, healthy children. I guess I forget how resilient children can be. Similarly, I didn't expect to see such a spacious, new home. From what I'd understand, the Tribe helped supply this house built just 12 years ago.
Soon after we entered, the husband introduced me to his mother, a frail woman who looked like she had been worn out trying to keep up with the two 4th graders. We sat near one another on separate couches forming an L-shape in the living room. Then I explained why I was there.
Each statement I shared legitimizing my documentary project and charity softened the grandmother's composure. She would explain she had been quite skeptical.
A stranger making a film about the homeless camp and wanting to donate proceeds to help us?!, the grandmother had thought. Hearing about this from her addicted son, no less, she was concerned about this being some kind of scam.
But as she became comfortable, the grandma began to share her story. She enjoyed a career as a social worker in Minneapolis before retiring up on the Reservation. She noted the struggles she sees in the Native American community today vs. when she was growing up. She told me how she took guardianship of the twins. Grandma thought it would be for a brief period until her son and his wife could clean up. But that was eight years ago.
In making this documentary, I've thought about those hurt most by homelessness. It was easy to see the struggle of the people at The Wall homeless camp last year in Minneapolis. But what about those who are unseen--namely, the children of the campers? My survey of 100 residents there revealed almost half had children under 18. These children live with relatives or enter the foster care system, left in the hands of others as mom and/or dad live in a tent. And in the case of these two children, I thought of how they'll react to this documentary, because their mom and dad happen to be the "leads" in this film. This couple is featured throughout, as I interviewed them from August to December, speaking openly about their struggles with addiction and hopes to leave the camp and get their kids back. I imagine this may be intensely emotional for these two children to watch--if not now, then when they're older.
"I want to use film proceeds to help those most affected by the situation at The Wall and by this movie," I said to the grandmother. When I shared this, she welcomed the help for her two grandchildren.
This above story was particularly poignant to write on this Mother's Day holiday in the U.S.
In some communities in our country, it's rather common to see a father absent. But the mother? That's remains pretty rare. Yet, the stats above reveal the frequency of this with those in that camp.
Then yesterday, in a spiritual support group I attend, sat two men with adolescent children who've lost their wives (these young mothers) to illness. One shared that he worried how his kids would respond on this day.
I'm fortunate to have not just an incredible mother, but a loving step-mom and a sister and two sisters-in-law who all raise nieces and nephews in the family. There are amazing examples of motherhood all over. Appreciation for them is clearer when seeing those who are lacking.
One week from tonight, I'll be in a dark, crowded theater looking around wondering how this first audience feels about our documentary. Some of you may be there. Others are attending the showing on June 3. https://www.facebook.com/events/273108236898104 To the rest of you, I look forward to telling you how the screenings go.
And finally, to all the mothers out there, I wish you a heartfelt Happy Mother's Day:)
Outside the shelter is open drug use & dealing, trash such as used needles, and sleeping bags and tents forming a "street-life suburb" of this shelter.
If this documentary can promote any one thing to stem homelessness, it would be more drug treatment (or even enforcement of current laws for proceedings in drug court). Otherwise, this stretch of sidewalk may be just a preview of what's to come this summer, particularly when the Navigation Shelter closes at the end of the month.
Oh, and by the way, I got a second screening secured! It'll be Monday evening June 3 at the same theater in Minneapolis. For those of you unable to make it to my premiere May 19, you are welcome to have a ticket to this screening. I'd love to have you there!
First the host asked about why I made this documentary. Then I went on to share what to expect from this film.
Thank you as always for your support in getting me this far. I look forward to seeing many of you May 19 for the premiere!