Every year I try and do several projects for groups that are not-for-profit. Today, I started one forCommunity LINC, a group that I have done a couple videos for in the past. I have worked with homeless advocates/shelters and feel like I understand the issue fairly well. I also see the homeless as two separate groups. I found out one term for the “typical” picture of the homeless is a “sign flyer.”

What you may think when you picture “The Homeless”

These are the guys you see on the street corners with the “need food, God bless” signs. The other group, in my mind, are the families that through poor money management, bad luck, and worse timing find themselves being evicted and walking away from homes or apartments and a bunch of utility bills.

My goal for Community LINC is to tell the story of how CL reaches out to the second group, and provides them with the tools to get out of crisis mode, stabilize, learn financial skills, and help them transition back into society with the ability to succeed. It is not an easy tale to tell. I was shocked during our first day of shooting to visit a budget hotel, and find out almost the entire hotel was full of homeless families. If they can afford $49 a night, why can”t they make a rent payment of $450?

 

 

 

My producer, who is also on staff at Community LINC, explained the cycle they get trapped in. It goes something like this…

A family is living paycheck to paycheck, something bad happens (job loss, illness, car breaks down). They then fall back on credit cards, stop making certain bill payments, something else bad happens, and then they are truly screwed. They get evicted and walk away with what they can shove in the car, leaving behind debt and past due utility payments. The reality of the crisis sets in, they hit up relatives or friends for shelter and wear that out. In the mean time they might be able to save up a little money and find work. But the past haunts them, no landlord will rent to them, so they end up in cheap hotels, trapped.

They then slowly fall behind until they are on the street. At that point it is homeless shelters and for some, homeless camps.

Homeless camp, about a mile from the Power & Light district. It reminded me of when I am overseas shooting for relief organizations. It had the same smell as the slums in Honduras..

 

Beyond the stress of all the issues, a deep sense of shame and failure fill the soul. Most have been programmed since childhood to believe that they are stupid and born failures. We all have that little demon in us somewhere, whispering lies, and that demon takes over in a situation like this. The kids at this point often bolt to fend for themselves. Many end up prostituted, just trying to survive. And this is why I tell this story. It breaks my heart.

This 10 year old is sharing a room with her family of 5. They are stable for now, but due to past bills, are unable to rent. They are trapped in a cycle.

Community LINC is just one of the many organizations in Kansas City trying to rescue these people. And not only feed them a meal and give them temporary shelter, but teach them how to get out of the trap and never get caught again. They teach financial skills, and more importantly, they mentally equip these survivors to believe that they have value and worth, that their lives mean something and that they have something to give. Community LINC is saving lives, literally. A family that makes it through the program often ends up sending their children to college and giving back time to CL.

The woman in this room will be evicted on Sunday, she is paralyzed with fear and self doubt. She plans to put all her stuff into a dumpster and start walking to Illinois to hopefully find her brother. We spent an hour with her helping her navigate the crisis hot lines and centers. In her soul, however, she has given up. The church she was attending offered “to pray for her and that was all they could do” she told us with a sad smile.

This is the story that I want to tell. Today was day 1 of shooting.

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