Our House Produces Short Films to Share Personal Stories of Homelessness

Our House Produces Short Films to Share Personal Stories of Homelessness

Arkansas Business, by Alexis Hosticka  on Wednesday, Sep. 30, 2015 8:52 am  

In an effort to offer a window into the issues of poverty and homelessness through individual stories, Our House homeless shelter has released “Project Voice,” a 12-part video series.

The five-minute films highlight the lives of Our House clients
and allows them to tell their stories — 12 of them, individually, each in their own way.

“We have always tried to put our clients front and center in our communication about what we do and we’ve tried to always convey a very positive image of our clients,” said Ben Goodwin, assistant director of Our House and producer of Project Voice. “They’re not that much different than anybody else.”

Film subjects range from a blind man who was rejected from other shelters to a former drug addict who builds a relationship with her daughter while at Our House.

“In general I’m always surprised at how willing people are to help us,” Goodwin said of the Our House residents in the videos. “It took a lot of bravery on the part of our clients.”

Our House has been recognized nationally for its work to provide homeless adults and children with housing, job training and educational opportunities. The Little Rock nonprofit provides housing for more than 100 residents — or clients — every night.

Adults there receive help with finding employment and the opportunity to build up a cushion of savings before moving to permanent housing. Children are cared for in licensed day care, after-school and summer programs.

Goodwin said the of the video series’ goal is to “change peoples’ perceptions of homelessness.”

“There’s no better cure for stereotypes than learning about real people,” Goodwin said.

Zach Crowe did about 90 percent of the work on the videos themselves, according to Goodwin. Crowe works at Our House through AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program designed to fight poverty.

“I’m a straight white male raised in a middle class family, so many of these stories are divergent from the life I’ve lived,” Crowe said. “There’s something very universal about these stories as well — the love for family, hopes, fears. I think there’s a way even for those who have had no sort of direct experience with these particular issues to listen to these stories and voices and to see themselves through them.”

Crowe plans to continue the video series with a second season next year. He hopes Our House residents will become even more involved in the production and play a bigger role in decisions regarding the videos.

“On larger level we’re interested in what it looks like throughout this second season to allow participants to even more fully take ownership of and have a say in the way the video is being made,” Crowe said.

Overall, the message of these videos is simply to spread the word about Our House and make people more aware of the work that the shelter does, Goodwin said.

“We didn’t put words in anybody’s mouth, but I think the message come through,” Goodwin said.