In the student-made documentary Lunch With The Homies, three girls are out to eat when they begin discussing homelessness, its causes and the stigmas that surround it.
The documentary screening was held on May 2 in the Grand Ballroom Lounge in Stamp.
Eden Daniel, senior theatre major; Kiauna Freeman, junior economics major; and MaBinty Bangura, a senior criminology and criminal justice major, created the film along with two other student videographers.
Retji Dakuma, a digital art graduate of the College of New Jersey, edited the film.
The film was made for their capstone project under the Rawlings Undergraduate Fellowship Program. However, the students wanted to focus on a social issue that was not only relevant but also something they could work whole-heartedly on.
Before the screening, Bangura said, ”Homelessness and poverty is something that is near and dear to all of our hearts, so we wanted to really showcase something that we could really put all of our passion [into].”
She said, “Our mission for this project was … to start a campaign that would break the stigmas against homelessness and homeless people … that would allow homeless people in our area to have a voice.”
The documentary focuses on homelessness in Washington, D.C. It features a woman who has been struggling with homelessness for several years but still has her faith in God. The film discusses stereotypes surrounding homeless people, like laziness and addiction.
The students speak with the homeless and homeless advocates to prove these stigmas don’t hold true to every case. Some people become homeless because they come out as an LGBTQ person and their parents throw them out. Some people become homeless because they can’t afford the medical care they need and end up disabled and on the streets. No matter the circumstance, a homeless person can be anyone.
In the panel discussion after the film, Steve Thomas from the National Coalition of Homelessness said, “Homelessness can happen to anyone. No one is exempt.”
Thomas was also featured in the film. He grew up in Washington, D.C., and is a veteran and formally homeless. He got involved with drugs and alcohol at a young age but has been sober for 10 years. Thomas has been working with the National Coalition of Homelessness since 2007.
The film seeks not only to break down the barriers between homeless and non-homeless people, but also find solutions.
They also featured Maryland delegate Mary Washington, who is also co-chair for the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness. She spoke about how 50,000 people in Maryland become homeless each year, while Maryland still has some of the richest counties in the country.
While some people can’t work because of physical or mental limitations, often homeless people work but don’t make enough to pay for housing, she said.
Washington said political change is needed, and that is what she aims to achieve. She mentioned raising the minimum wage to $15 and implementing rent control so people can make more and live in more affordable homes.
She also discussed government programs like Housing First. The first step of the program is to get the person or family in a stable home as soon as possible and then provide services that promote long-term housing, like assistance in finding a job.
At the end of the film, the students facilitated a discussion. Daniel said, “The truth is that people who fall into homelessness are not just losing a home, they’re also losing their voice.”
“It really is our job as people who have homes, who have shelter, to advocate for those who don’t.”
The panel included Thomas and Candi Darley, who were both featured in the film and from the National Coalition of Homelessness. The two discussed their own experiences and the things they want people to know about homelessness.
Darley said she found homelessness to be a struggle but also a humbling experience.
“Most people look at the things on the outside to make them who they are, when you lose your things, you have to really look inside to find out who you are. Now it is the successful homeless person that achieves this,” she said.
Darley advocates everyone to speak to each other and the homeless, even if it’s just a hello. She said she never knew how much a conversation with someone on a bus could mean until she became homeless herself.
Thomas said everybody, especially young people, regardless of socioeconomic status should rally for ending homelessness.
“I’m getting more encouraged about people being concerned about people,” he said.
“People need to come first, then worry about the damn whales.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Forsaken Fotos’ Flickr Account.
Allie Melton is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.