The message from Chuck Levesque, Executive Director of Depaul USA, was clear the other night. Go and tell people you see what you did last night and how it affected you. He is referencing the eight short films that are part of HOMELESS HAS A NAME film festival. The films dispel stereotypes of homelessness by showing a range of people who have experienced being homeless. These people are young, old, educated, mothers, fathers, men, women, children.
James is a college graduate, but found himself homeless after graduation while he was looking for a job. He lived in his car and took pride in his appearance. He lived in a homeless shelter for three months until he could save enough money for an apartment.
Charles is educated, articulate, charismatic and disabled. He lived on the street for many years with the help of his friend, Guy. Charles believes in America, he feels lucky to live in a country where he can speak his mind and practice his faith. He says he is the luckiest person. This film, called “Charles and Guy” is about friendship.
The film, “Fragile,” profiled a gifted pianist who was homeless after years of abuse and neglect. In the film, the woman visits her childhood home after over 20 years. She faces her demons and those events in her life that led her to become homeless. She now lives in housing provided by Project HOME and plays the piano for audiences around Philadelphia.
It is events like this film festival that show how art reaches people, how art provides a voice and how art convenes. If you tell a story people will remember it; people don’t remember statistics. If a person can identify with another person, they put a face on homelessness.
These films affected me. When I take the train to my office in Center City, I look at the faces of the people who live at Suburban Station. I look at their hands, I look at their shoes, I look at their coats. I try to imagine who they are – what their story is.
Its the next part that is tricky – how do you help, how do you make a difference, and how do you start to change the system?