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

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!



Firesteel Blog: Hacking to End Homelessness

More from inside the Hackathon!  Our partners at Firesteel have documented their Hack to End Homelessness experience in this great blog post. It describes Erin’s experiences working on the “Maptastics” super-team, features one of Denise Miller’s trademark awesome videos about the weekend and also includes an interview with our special guest, Mark Horvath.

Read it here: Firesteel / Blog / Hacking to End Homelessness.



Mark Horvath Hacking to End Homelessness: May 1-4, 2014 (Haley’s View)

Written by Haley Jo Lewis, Student Project Assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness

After months of working with Seattle University’s Project on Family Homeless, I knew just how influential Mark Horvath is in efforts being made to end homelessness. His passion and energy are contagious, even through the computer screen. I was eager to meet the man behind the film @home and the Invisible People movement.

On May 1, partners from the three Seattle University projects on family homelessness welcomed e-activist Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal) to Seattle. We had invited Mark to join our partners at Impact Hub and Hack to End Homelessness (@hack2end) to motivate and educate Hackathon participants on homelessness and its solutions. After watching the documentary about his work, @home, multiple times and following his passionate work on Twitter and Youtube, I was anxious and excited to meet Mark.

Mark’s work could be said to manifest in the documentary @home. This new film followed Mark on a cross-country journey as he talked with homeless people and filmed their stories to share with the world. Read my reaction on Firesteel to this moving, inspiring, and beautiful documentary.

Not only had I written a blog post in reaction to @home, but I had also created some art inspired by his film. I was excited to meet the man behind the camera, and to give him the art I had created for it.

mark horvath haley lewis twitter drawing @home film
I (@peopleneedhomes) tweet a photo to Mark of one of the drawings I did for him a few days before our meeting.


Mark was kind, compassionate, and grateful. I knew from the get-go that Mark was a storyteller, but in person it was a whole different ball game. Every story he told was captivating, and when he spoke, people listened. There is something about the way Mark tells stories that is especially moving. Once homeless himself, Mark is dedicated to his work in ways that other people aren’t. Mark’s vulnerability and closeness to the issue is what makes his stories so powerful and moving.

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“@home,” Mark Horvath and Three Wishes for Solving Homelessness

The many faces of Mark Horvath and his good friend, social media, as shown in the new film “@home.” Original art by Haley Jo Lewis.


Written by Haley Jo Lewis, Seattle University communications major and project assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness. Originally posted at

If you had three wishes, what would they be?

Would you even think to wish for a home? Maybe a bigger one, perhaps, if you already have one.

While interviewing people who are homeless, social media pioneer and homelessness advocate Mark Horvath always ends his conversations with a question: “If you had three wishes, what would they be?”

In the new documentary about him, “@home,” the people Mark interviews, without fail, wish for a home.

Still from Horvath’s film “@home”


Read more of Haley Jo’s post at our partner Firesteel’s blog.