Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Documentaries of Homelessness

Almost two years ago, in February of 2011, teams of volunteers spread out across Albuquerque to survey homeless people sleeping on the streets of the city.  It was very early in the morning, in the middle of winter, during one of the coldest weeks Albuquerque had ever seen.  With the wind chill, temperatures were at records lows.  The people sleeping under overpasses and in abandoned porches could hardly move to answer questions, and the volunteers filling out the forms were shivering so badly they could hardly write.  Finally Mayor Richard Berry called a halt to the survey so that emergency shelters could be opened and the homeless could get out of the cold.  The remainder of the interviews took place at these emergency shelters where volunteers surveyed 475 homeless men and women during this three day effort. 

This survey of Albuquerque's homeless was due to the effort of a new initiative called Albuquerque Heading Home.  This initiative, based on models used in other cities has a goal of ending homelessness in Albuquerque.  Through the efforts of community volunteer programs and local agencies, Albuquerque Heading Home places chronically homeless and medically vulnerable individuals and families in permanent housing, then gives them case management and as much support as possible while they adjust to life off the streets.  The program hopes that once the worry of looking for shelter is removed people can focus on staying out of homelessness forever.  Those placed in housing are offered services to help them make this transition.  Volunteers visit with people placed in housing to offer support.  The survey taken in 2011 helped the program determine which individuals were the most at risk to die from living on the streets of Albuquerque, and therefore, needed to be placed in housing immediately.  To learn more about Albuquerque Heading Home visit their website at abqheadinghome.org. You can find out more about the city's support for the project here.   

On Saturday, December 1, the Guild Cinema in Nob Hill will be showing a documentary film that details the work of Albuquerque Heading Home, including footage of the bitterly cold Survey Week of 2011 and interviews with people who have been placed in permanent housing.  The documentary is about half an hour long and is free to the public, with first come first served seating.  Further details can be found at this link

An important aspect of Albuquerque Heading Home is their approach to building strong communities to ensure that homelessness will become a thing of the past.  The hope is that a community that comes together to deal with problems will always find a solution to anything that might arise.

The library also carries many wonderful documentaries about homeless people around the United States:

Dark Days
A fascinating film about the people who live inside the New York City subway system.  An entire society has been built up by the people who call the underground tunnels home, but Amtrak says they have no choice but to evict them.

Without a Home
A young woman follows the lives of different homeless people trying to survive in the L.A. area.  The range of people she films show the scope of homelessness in the United States, from families living in cheap motels, to addicts living on skid row, to people struggling to find shelter from day to day. 

It Was a Wonderful Life
This amazing film follows the lives of four women who are homeless, telling the story of how they came to be that way, showing us how easy it can be to slip from living in a home, to living on the streets.

Skid Row
Pras Michel, formally a member of the Fugees, goes undercover to spend nine days on L.A.'s infamous skid row.  How he survives and discovers the community of southern California's homeless is inspirational. 

Tent City U.S.A.
Shelters in Nashville, Tennessee are so crowded that the homeless are building a massive "tent city" in the middle of the city.  This documentary follows the people of this tent city.

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