The Homestretch – A documentary about 3 homeless teens trying to make their way

I am excited that the Kickstarter campaign to complete this documentary about three homeless teens has almost reached its goal, but with only 23 days left to go, I want to encourage you to consider contributing to what sounds like an eye-opening look at the struggles kids face on the streets of Chicago every day.  To contribute, please click here.

The Homestretch follows three homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future. Each of these ambitious teenagers – Kasey, Anthony and Roque – will surprise, inspire, and challenge audiences to rethink stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while facing the trauma of being alone and abandoned at an early age.

via The Homestretch (trailer) on Vimeo.

In a recent email from The Night Ministry, CEO & President Paul W. Hamman had this to say about the film:

The film is nearing completion!  We are very excited to work with the filmmakers Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare and everyone at Kartemquin as the film rolls out over the next year.

But first, Kelly and de Mare have launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish their fundraising so the film can be completed.  We hope that, in addition to your support of The Night Ministry, you can help them reach their goal.

We strongly believe in this film’s potential to raise awareness around youth homelessness and the work of The Night Ministry and our partner agencies in Chicago.

After viewing a nearly complete version of the film recently, Paul W. Hamann, President and CEO of The Night Ministry, said, “This film deftly, courageously, and respectfully illustrates the complexity of the issues that result in over one million young people experiencing homelessness every year in this country.”

The Night Ministry Bus: One of the Pivotal Experiences in My Life

NightministryI found this excerpt in an old journal, written when I used to volunteer in Chicago with the Night Ministry.  One of their programs is a large recreational bus that has a medical station set up in the back room.  It travels to two or three neighborhoods each night and serves coffee and juice and hot chocolate to anyone who drops by.  Sometimes they just line up outside to receive their treats; sometimes they come in and sit down on the couches and seats within, especially on the cold winter nights.

It was a life altering few years that changed my perspective on how I live my life.

The bus is gross.  How could it not be? Sure, the volunteers and staff are supposed to clean it up after every shift, but some nights, when you’ve been serving cookies and condoms from 6:30 p.m. till 1:30 a.m., and maybe had some lonely guy or hyper gal talking at you, or even someone venting hostility, your shift leaves you drained.

Listening is hard work.  Sometimes it’s the hardest part about volunteering.  Even harder than serving gallons of hot chocolate and tons of cookies to a hundred kids pushing and shouting and demanding and loud. There have been times when stuff was thrown at the bus, like eggs or trash. I’ve even been hit with a plastic bag filled with the crumbled cookies I handed to the kid myself.

Mostly, though, the people who come are happy to see you.  They welcome your presence into their dark and isolated world, so they make the most of your short visit by soaking up as much companionship as they can.  Storing it up against the long dark moments until the next person looks at them with their heart and eyes and really sees them again.

Listening, standing there and letting someone talk at you no matter whether it’s because the person is lonely, drunk, angry or  just manic, can exhaust you in ten minutes flat, fifteen tops.

On the other hand, the opportunity to just listen has presented me with some of the most meaningful minutes of my volunteering experience.