Documentary screening about homeless students leads to discussion


Aaron BerkowitzGeneral Assignment Reporter 

The Multicultural Center, Student Life, and Judicial Affairs Office collaborated for the screening and discussion of the documentary The Homestretch.  Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare’s film focused on three homeless teenagers lives in Chicago and their struggles with trying to overcome adversity.

The smaller crowd that was present for the screening of the film resulted in an intimate discussion mediated by both guest speakers from the Columbus House in New Haven.

Permanent Supportive Housing managers at the Columbus House, Rebekah Ohlsen and Sherry Dimario said even though the documentary was filmed in Chicago and they are based in New Haven, the effects of homelessness don’t only effect urban areas.

“Homelessness is in the more rural parts of CT too it’s just harder to see because it’s more spread out. The effects are the same though,” said Olsen. “Being that our shelter handles more adults around the age of 30 it’s tough watching these 17 and 18 year old kids deal with some of the same issues.”

This film showed a glimpse of how homelessness can affect teens and children. According to endhomelessness.org, an estimated 550,000 children and young adults up to the age of 24, experience homelessness per year. Approximately 380,000 of those counted are under the age of 18 years old.

Anthony, Roque, and Kasey are the three teens that shared their stories to put this documentary together. The film showed their individual journeys of trying to improve their lives. Emphasis was placed on each teen’s desire to change their lives, but also their lack of direction at some points.

The Youth Continuum, a community based non-profit agency, aims to address and prevent youth homelessness in New Haven. According to their website their staff executes their mission by helping residents between the ages of 14-24 to improve their self-esteem and by developing long-term personal interests.

“It’s a situation you’re in, it’s not who you are as a person,” Kasey said in the film.

DiMario said this quote is important because has seen people constantly pre-judging the residents at the shelter. She said the unfortunate thing about the people who judge is that they don’t really know the residents as people, only as stereotypes.

Ohlson said the teens in this film were more fortunate than some of the residents she works with because of the resources made available to them.

“The kids in the movie had some support there regardless if it was from a teacher or someone that was paid to be in their life,” said Ohlson. “The folks we tend to work with don’t always have that. By the time we see them a lot of them have burned the bridges with their families.”

She said seeing these cases are tough but she tries to always see the good in people.

Jenna Retort, Assistant Director of Student Affairs, said the purpose of holding events that showcase issues such as homelessness, are to raise awareness and inspire action.

DiMario said the Columbus House is always looking for donations and volunteers. To get in contact with staff in charge of volunteering and donations email info@columbushouse.org.

Ohlson said providing housing is only a “band aid” for the issue.

“Give people a home and they wont be homeless, right? Believe it or not, without case management and support a lot of these people couldn’t stay housed,” said Ohlson.

 

 

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