“Homeless, Not Helpless” — The Documentary


The documentary “Homeless Not Helpless”, created and directed by Felix Rodriguez, depicts the complex realities, struggles, and challenges that are associated with homelessness.  The documentary interviews people who are experiencing homelessness and people who work with (and advocate for) people who are experiencing homelessness in New York state.  Non-profit leaders and church representatives speak on the social, economic, and policy barriers to achieving housing equality for all, while the chronically homeless individuals share their stories and experiences.  One man who is “signing”** in the film asks commuters to “take me with you” since they are presumably driving home.

The slogan “homeless not helpless” is a popular organizing phrase for those in the homeless and housing rights movements. The slogan first gained popular usage in the 1980s when it was used by homeless rights activists (mostly homeless and formerly homeless individuals) across the country as a rallying cry drawing more attention to the need for increased basic and supportive services for homeless adults, youth, and families in the U.S..  Basic services include food, water, housing, utilities,  health care for both physical and mental health needs, and safety/security.  Supportive services include addiction recovery services, domestic violence services, education and career development, employment assistance, and parenting support or child care services.

**Signing is the act of holding up a sign in a public space and requesting money for food, transportation, and housing, or requesting work opportunities and housing by writing these needs on the sign.  Many people who are experiencing homelessness use signing as a way to make money for food, shelter, and transportation (bus or metro fare).  So, if you see someone with a sign on the side of the road asking for your help, please try to help in any way that you can!

For more information on this documentary, see this article, written by E. Assata Wright, for the Hudson Reporter (April 15, 2012): http://www.hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/18238903/article-Homeless–yet-hopeful-NJCU-students-film-documentary-on-JSQ-homeless-?instance=secondary_stories_left_column


The Throwaways

homelessness, mass incarceration, personal experience

The Throwaways is a documentary that chronicles the life and experiences of Ira McKinley, an activist documentarian whose interactions with police brutality, mass incarceration, and homelessness have led him to produce excellent work that illustrates the urgency of these racial justice issues.  This is a “must see” film for anyone interested in policing policies, mass incarceration, homelessness, and inequality.  The film features interviews from local activists in the Capital Region of New York State, as well as interviews from scholar Michelle Alexander.

Click here to visit the official website of the film.  The Throwaways has won numerous awards and is now touring the country, so check the website to see if a viewing will be coming soon to a theater near you!