Article written by IPH Volunteer, Samuel Tucker.
Hello and welcome to our next installment of The Independent Picture House’s (IPH) Community Impact Film Series! This series is meant to spark dialogue in areas of social awareness through the power of film. On November 11, 2023, we have a very special event centered around the homeless crisis in the United States, and are very excited to have a screening of the documentary @home with the Director/Editor of the picture Susanne Suffredin, the guide of the documentary Mark Horvath, and several other special guests to discuss the public fatigue towards homelessness, as well as what can be done on an individual level.
I had the utmost privilege to have a viewing of the film, as well as a fantastic discussion with Susanne. As someone who has lived in several major metro areas, it is becoming more and more common to see the impact of homelessness in our communities, and the documentary gives a very detailed view into how broad this problem has become. One thing that was very eye-opening for me was the different types of homelessness – it is certainly not as narrow a pool as one may have thought out. As Susanne very eloquently put it: “[@home] unravels this monolithic notion that all unhoused individuals experience homelessness exactly the same way, and that….it’s the same issue everywhere and it’s not.” We are able to see not only the street level view of this issue (sometimes referred to as chronic homelessness), but also those who are able to afford staying at motels or other places to have a roof over their heads, while still suffering economically.
Susanne was also not afraid to buck against the “traditional” questions that are asked of those experiencing homelessness. In one of the more (which is saying something considering the subject matter) heart-wrenching moments of the film, Mark Horvath – who is a leader in homeless advocacy, a social media presence, and the guide of the documentary – reads off comments from a video he had posted to YouTube. There is a lot of what you would expect or may have even thought of yourself when seeing this first hand – questions about agency, how it’s someone’s choice or desire to be homeless, and even questioning their abilities as a parent. This really struck me, and when I discussed with Susanne about her experience with this, she told me a story around a friend’s brother who was homeless in Amsterdam. He unfortunately passed away, and even then his wife claimed that it was the life that he wanted, which according to his sister who he was very close with was not the case. Susanne again on the importance of family with homelessness:
“…I feel like you know this idea, that lacking family support or the support of someone who can reach out and help is a huge piece to this. Because there are so many people struggling with the same issues that I think people on the street are struggling with, but they have a family member who can pay for the therapy that they need, that can pay for the apartment that they can stay in, that can pay for bills if they can’t hold a job down or if they need drug rehab. They have that support and it’s often the difference…when there’s none of that support around, which is why a lot of people in foster care end up on the streets, because they go from foster care at age 18 and there’s that.”
Which was seen in the documentary as well. One of the first people interviewed stated that they just turned 18 in foster care and just became homeless.
Which brings us to the best part of these sorts of difficult experiences. If you are like me, the first thing that I wanted to do was help or at least try to find resources where I could. I brought up that feeling to Susanne and asked if she had any recommendations of how to view this film. She luckily had been asked that question many times before and had some great responses:
“I asked people to come into the film open minded as they can and to experience the film in the sense [of] how feelings [may change] over the course of the viewing of this film. What part of your own perceptions around this issue has started to shift?”
And when asked what we can do?
“It could be as simple as just say hello if you walk by someone on the street who is in a position to interact with you…. at least say hello. But it’s also, this isn’t about guilt. This isn’t about beating yourself up about anything. This is understanding this is a really complicated issue.”
And sometimes just saying hello and being aware is a great stepping off point.
We look forward to hosting Susanne and the rest of the speakers on the 11th, and look forward to having a thought-provoking, meaningful, and ultimately optimistic view of how you can impact this issue!
SAM TUCKER, A CINEMA ENTHUSIAST RESIDING IN CHARLOTTE, FILLS HIS DAYS DISCUSSING RUGBY, MOVIES AND AN ARRAY OF NERDY PURSUITS. FOLLOW WHAT HE’S WATCHING ON HIS LETTERBOXD HERE.