A Tribute to Barry Mitzman

As our founder leaves, we reflect on what he’s taught our community about ending family homelessness

By Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director
Sharon James_Barry at end
Barry Mitzman, delivering his lecture “A Quiet Crisis,” in which he reflects on six years leading our family homelessness projects at Seattle University. Photo by Steve Schimmelman.

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Art for Advocacy: The Face of Family Homelessness

How partners across Washington state are using art for advocacy around homelessness.

By Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness

Inocente at SAM walking down aisle by Steve Schimmelman

Partnering with Seattle Art Museum for the screening of “Inocente” allowed us to reach a new audience of art lovers. Here, they give Inocente a standing ovation at the conclusion of the film. Photo by Steve Schimmelman. 

Republished from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, April 7, 2016.

A young woman of color takes the stage. With a quick prop change and shift of her posture, she becomes several different characters: a young military veteran, a successful business executive, a street paper vendor, all of whom have been hit with homelessness. Continue reading

Portraits of Homelessness

Sharing the Depth of the Human Experience: “Portraits of Homelessness” at the 2015 Global Street Paper Summit

By Lindsey Habenicht, Project Assistant, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness

Lindsey with conference passEditor’s Note: Seattle University hosted the International Network of Street Papers (INSP)  Global Street Paper Summit June 24-26, 2015, which welcomed more than 120 journalists from street papers in 22 countries, including Seattle’s Real Change. Our assistant, Lindsey Habenicht (above), is spending the summer as an intern for one of those papers, Street Sense of Washington, D.C. Before she left Seattle, Lindsey attended the Summit as a street paper communicator and volunteer blogger. This is an adapted version of Lindsey’s post for the Summit.

The narrative of what homelessness is and is not is often uninformed, uneducated, and even unknown completely. While many are aware of the issue of homelessness, they remain unaware of the person: the veteran, the child, the musician, the artist, the entrepreneur, and the like.

“Why is that?” asked Rex Hohlbein of Facing Homelessness. “How could [we] be so disconnected from the simple and obvious fact that homelessness involves real people with real suffering?”

Rex

Keynote speaker Rex Holbein started the Facebook page “Homeless in Seattle”’ in March of 2011 to share something beautiful about each person living on the street. Photo courtesy of facinghomelessness.org

Rex was the keynote speaker at the Global Street Paper Summit’s opening night event, “Portraits of Homelessness,” June 24, which told stories through more than 100 works of visual art, films and audio recordings. Continue reading

The Stranger Genius Award Goes To Family Homelessness Film Fellow

Drew Christie drawing by Haley
Drew Christie, as seen by Seattle University student Haley Jo Lewis.

Congratulations to our Film Fellow Drew Christie, winner of a coveted Genius Award from The Stranger! At the ceremony Saturday night, Oct. 18, Drew was named as winner of the Film category for his impressive body of work, including more “op-docs” for the New York Times than any other artist.

The nominations were announced in June, just after Drew had completed his work on “The Beast Inside,” the animated short film he co-directed with Amy Enser (produced by Lindy Boustedt). That film is the main reason we were rooting for him.

In the nomination write-up, Charles Mudede of The Stranger wrote:

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The Smiths — The Film About Homelessness That Had To Be Made

A new animated film about family homelessness and helping neighbors 

By Lisa Gustaveson, Project Manager for Seattle University’s Faith & Family Homelessness Project

As program manager for Seattle University’s Faith & Family Homelessness Project, I spend much of my time visiting local emergency shelters, churches, synagogues and mosques. During my visits, I often meet dedicated volunteers who spend countless hours providing meals, collecting clothes, back to school supplies, and hygiene items, for people experiencing homelessness (you all know who you are!).

During these visits, the question I am most frequently asked by volunteers is, does any of this make a difference? They wonder if they really are helping to end family homelessness.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unappreciated when the number of homeless families seems to grow every day. It’s also hard to find the best way to describe the importance of each and every act of kindness, how all those little gestures make a difference.

That’s why I was so excited when I learned about filmmaker Neely Goniodsky’s plans to create the short animated film, “The Smiths,” as part of Seattle University’s Film and Family Homelessness Project.

“The Smiths” is one of four short films created through the project, collectively titled “American Refugees.”

 

The Smiths American refugees

A still from the film “The Smiths.” The vivid colors used throughout the film convey the intense emotions of a family who is homeless, as they try to make ends meet.

I was a member of the project’s advisory team, so I had the opportunity to read the proposal by Neely Goniodsky. As I read it, I knew that the film should be – no, HAD to be – made.

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The Beast Inside — A Story of Relentless Positivity

By Krista Kent, project assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness and Digital Design senior, Seattle U

Note: This is the third in a series in which we ask our staff to react to the “American Refugees” film that most appealed to them.

 

“I try my best. I see hundreds of people doing thousands of times better. If I keep doing my best and can’t make it, then I have to find some other way of survival.”

 

When life has taken a turn for the worse, it can be hard to stay positive. If you had no roof to sleep under and were left with no choice but to ask strangers for spare change, only to receive a condescending look at best, how would you hold up?

How would you react if someone told you to “get a job, you bum,” without knowing the circumstances you were in? Would it be easy to fight the “beast inside” and stay positive?

For Tilawn, who has lived in a car with his dad and slept under bridges, the battle against homelessness hasn’t been easy, but he remains positive. The film “The Beast Inside” tells the story of Tilawn and the barriers he faces while being homeless.

The Beast Inside- Drew Christie and Amy Enser; the car that Tilawn lived in with his dad

Tilawn was homeless with his dad from age eight. They often lived in their car in Snohomish County, Wash. Image from The Beast Inside.

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“Super Dads”: Stories of Resilience from Children and Fathers Faced with Homelessness

By Haley Jo Lewis, project assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness and Communication senior, Seattle U

Note: This is the second in a series in which we ask our staff to react to the “American Refugees” film that most appealed to them.

 

Life as a homeless family is “really scary.”

“Really scary…really scary. I can’t explain.” This quote from the film “Super Dads” reflects the raw honesty found within the accounts of homeless fathers interviewed by the filmmakers.

Unrelenting to sadness, weakness and fear: A father’s words are supposed to be filled with strength. In the film “Super Dads,” however, homeless fathers open up about their greatest fears, hardships, and struggles as they talk about their experiences being homeless — something they never thought they’d face.

“Super Dads” hit me the hardest of  the four animated shorts in “American Refugees.” It was those stories of resilience that moved me most. Their hardships are all too real, and pull me back to a time when my own father was homeless, struggling to find a place where we could take solace.

 

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“Home for Sale”: Nowhere to Call Home

 A film that showed me how close homelessness can be for families

Written by Emma Lytle, Seattle University senior communications major and project assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness 

 Note: This is the first in a series in which we ask our staff to react to the “American Refugees” film that most appealed to them.

Stability is the foundation and the glue that holds a family together. Stability comes in many forms, whether it’s sustaining a steady job or having a place to call home.

As the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, I grew up feeling that sense of stability. But some families aren’t always so lucky. Sometimes that glue disappears from a family as parents struggle to make ends meet.

Home for Sale” is a captivating short film about the loss of a family’s stability and the reality of losing their home. This film showed me how close my family could have been to being homeless while I was growing up.

Home for Sale, American Refugees; Project on Family Homelessness, Film and Family Homelessness
This is the foreclosure notice on the house in “Home for Sale,” just one of the many signs of a struggling family.

“That would never happen to us.”

This quote is from the short film. It’s what a couple says as they think about buying a foreclosed house. They feel they would never lose their home to foreclosure.

I have always believed this statement to be true for me and for my family too. This film shook me with the reality of homelessness.

Home for Sale, American Refugees; Project on Family Homelessness, Film and Family Homelessness
The couple looking at buying the foreclosed house. Like many others, they struggle with whether they can buy a house that represents the broken dreams of another family.

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Seattle International Film Festival “American Refugees” Premiere (Haley’s Recap)

Seattle University, four animated shorts, and a determination to change the way people see family homelessness

Written by Haley Jo Lewis, Student Project Assistant for the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness

Seattle University: empowering leaders for a just and humane world. But what does that really look like?

It was a sold-out show on May 19 at the Harvard Exit theatre. While a sold-out show is not necessarily unusual, the content of the films made it remarkable. The films, titled collectively as American Refugees, are four animated shorts that tell the stories of families, homelessness and their resilience against all odds.

siff harvard exit theatre
Marquee at the Harvard Exit theatre. Photo by Steve Schimmelman.

Seattle University’s Film and Family Homelessness Project had recruited five professional filmmakers to create these films. Seattle University students were involved throughout the process — assisting the filmmakers as Student Fellows, helping to develop discussion guides, designing collateral and finally, volunteering at the event itself.

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New Films on Family Homelessness Premiered, Available for Download

Our sister program, the Film & Family Homelessness Project, has created four new animated short films about real families, homelessness and resilience.

american refugees

“American Refugees” premiered to great acclaim last night, and now you can watch these remarkable films online at http://www.americanrefugees.org.

Visit our Facebook page to see photos from the Firesteel green screen booth and photos from the screening and after-party.

Then, watch the films and share them with your friends, family, colleagues, church, school group — anyone who needs to hear about how important it is to end homelessness among families. Download a discussion guide too!