Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A view of Charlotte from Sundance

Thanks to the relative strength of North Carolina’s filmmaking industry, the state is usually represented in films at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

As I have for the past seven years, I traveled there recently. I go out of personal interest and usually write about Carolinas connections for The Observer. One of this year’s films showcasing Charlotte surprised me.

Called “Kicking It,” it’s a documentary about soccer teams comprised of homeless people who compete annually in a Homeless World Cup tournament. An effort spearheaded at Charlotte’s Urban Ministry Center sends a U.S. team each year, and a Charlotte player was prominently featured in the documentary. (Click here for my article from Sunday’s paper about it; here for another article about a Carolina film connection).

In one sequence, the Charlotte player, Craig Holley, walks the streets of uptown Charlotte with a camera crew, and complains that in our city, there’s often no place for a homeless person to go. If the shelters are full and homeless people try sleeping on park benches or other public property, police officers will awaken them and make them move. Many end up in tents deep in the woods, and they, too, are sometimes forced to move along.

It’s no secret that this city has a serious homeless problem. It’s estimated there are more than 5,000 homeless in our community, and uncounted numbers of them sleep outside at night.

I wonder how much our leaders will want to celebrate our appearance in this film. It points up the sad reality that for many people who have fallen through the cracks of our system, there is simply no place to go.

So, I wrote in a brief for the Observer from Sundance that the film portrays Charlotte in an unflattering light. Lawrence Cann, a founder and leader of Charlotte’s homeless soccer program, took issue with my wording.

“The streets, in Charlotte or elsewhere in the world, are never nice and hardly ever described as peachy by someone who has to live on them,” he wrote in an e-mail.

But, he noted, Charlotte is ahead of many other cities in spearheading the homeless soccer program, which is credited with helping many homeless people turn their lives around. That includes Holley, the featured Charlotte man, who now lives in an apartment and has a job.

In that respect, yes, the documentary paints a positive view of Charlotte. And, I’m glad it provokes thought about the flip side of our shiny bank-towered skyline.

I also salute the filmmakers for coming up with the concept of “filmanthropy” – the idea of making a film about a cause they believe in, then contributing the film’s proceeds to the cause. This film’s profits will go toward the Homeless World Cup program. It’s been picked up by ESPN; no air date has been set yet.

This is an innovative way to attack the problem of homelessness. What else should we be doing?


Blogger unicorn1824 said...

Homelessness is a complex and difficult issue for society, yet many people dismiss the homeless as druggies and the dregs of society.

It's going to take a concerted effort to effectively deal with the homeless issue and it has to be delivered at a more one-to-one level than the large government programs some want to create. Many people just need help with apartment down payments, others drug/alcohol counseling... and some may be beyond all help.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liegh this is one subject I would like to share this with you; I was shocked to find out Washington D.C. only has 12,000 known homeless and we have upwards of 8000 homeless; This is really getting overboard here and disproportionate ; Think about this Liegh Washington has 7 million People with 12,000 homeless and we 2 million People with 8000 homeless; Something is out of whack!

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad thing is Liegh if I was MAYOR for Day I would issue sleeping bags from all the rich and maybe tents if they could give up a night at RUTH CHRIS. This is dangerous for all of us and them also to be out the woods. For only $1 dollar a week from everyone working this problem can be solved according to Washington Senators. Isnt that sad.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put the Dems back in office and maybe dome cash for programs like this will come to light as well as ridding us of this GOP deficit.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

opps, "some"... keyboard slip.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leigh, Don't you think it's worth noting how many in the community are helping the homeless? You made no mention of Room at the Inn or the many churches that took in groups of homeless women for a week at a time back in December. As someone previously mentioned, homelessness is a complicated problem--certainly much of it not the fault of society at large. While sharing breakfast with the homeless women who were staying our church I was amazed at their viewpoint of their situation. Many had families but preferred living "free", just not when it was cold. One left the program at our church when her boyfriend was released from jail. By the end of the week they were talking freely with us and most seemed to feel that they were responsible for their situations. Several were indeed attending substance abuse programs and/or job training programs. They were grateful that these were available to them.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Edwards Weekend on NPR has a program that aired in January. It is a podcast too, about the invisible ones. Children leave prostitution when they are old enough to flip burgers, and many children run away from home at 12, or they are abandoned at even younger ages.

We give aid for refugees in other countries with food and shelter. We have architects on Ted that design affordable emergency shelter for people.

Look to solutions, not at the problems. Looking at problems never solved anything. Problems don't solve problems; solutions solve problems.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point about children is about how many homeless are children in the US, and therefore more likely to enter into prostitution at a very young age.

I just read about JWW and the steps they are taking to make a difference. I mentioned Ted.com and here is another site: http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0303/p01s03-ussc.html
Solutions that can make a huge difference in the world are being ignored here at home.

8:09 AM  
Blogger elieen said...

We are doing something that will change the way people think about the homeless and it will help them get their lives and or families back together. We have created a program that allows them to become functional human beings again. Mike Scott is the creator of the show Americas Forgotten and Leon Youngblood is the co producer, we plan on getting this show on the major networks and using the proceeds to help these men and women get back into soceity as functional human beings. The website is www.americasforgotten.com and Leon]s phone number is 760-453-1075 if you want to ask any questions or comments call him directly, all publicity helps the cause.

11:58 AM  
Blogger elieen said...

We are doing something to help the homeless and we are starting in the hardest hit cities and will work our way down to every city until America catches on, now is the time for humanity to rise. Leon Youngblood co-producer of www.americasforgotten.com please check out the trailer and contact me the producer and creator of the show is Mike Scott, 760-453-1075

12:07 PM  

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