Redefining Homelessness with The Homestretch

In a new report from The Homestretch screenings in Washington D.C., the filmmakers capture how this story of three Chicago teens struggling with temporary homelessness as they enter adulthood is helping to literally change the definition of homelessness.

Last week, policy makers and officials from the five top Federal Agencies whose work intersects with homeless youth gathered together to watch The Homestretch.

Terrance F. Ross, author of a recent article that appeared in The Atlantic - Young, Homeless - and Invisible - moderated a thought-provoking discussion that centered around how all the agencies can work better to both understand and serve the needs of homeless youth. He began by talking about his own personal discovery that "homelessness is not just houseless-ness” and asked panelists for their immediate responses to the film. The panelists were Jennifer Ho (Senior Advisor on Housing and Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development), Joaquin Tamayo (Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Department of Education), Jasmine Hayes (Policy Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness), Sanzanna Dean (Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program, Department of Justice) and Mark Greenberg (Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children & Families, Department of Health and Human Services).

Here is a sample of responses:
"I certainly hope that we can get this into every single school in the country." - Joaquin Tamayo, U.S. Department of Education.

"A light bulb moment for me." - Sanzanna Dean, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

"It just reminds me that, at our core, we need to be connected to people... What we're talking about is not simply lack of housing, this is a social justice issue." - Jasmine Hays, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The impact of the film's screening was to bring to the surface current disagreements in Washington over the very definition of homelessness for youth, and to "share ideas for how to look at funding sources differently, and innovative new models for programs to help homeless youth." Read the full report from the screening and listen to the full audio recording of the discussion. The Homestretch team will now bring the panelists to similar roundtable discussions with the film on the regional level.

The Homestretch is now screening across the country through ITVS and Independent Lens' Community Cinema program. Read a new letter from directors Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly in which they describe the moment they were inspired to make the film, and their fight against the "pervasive negative stereotype that the words “homeless youth” conjure up."

Connecting with the youth audience is major goal for the film. Read a new review of the film by a Columbia Colleage Chicago student, hosted by RogerEbert.com, which calls The Homestretch "a truly a great and inspiring documentary that everyone should see, especially Chicagoans."

The Homestretch airs on PBS Independent Lens at 10pm on Monday, April 13. Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare's film is also available to watch on iTunes, Amazon, and other digital platforms, and available to buy on DVD for individuals and institutions.