This past weekend, I loved being on the beautiful University of Virginia campus for a screening of @home, part of their 8th Annual Human Rights Film Festival. I'm so grateful to Annie Crabill and Jeremy Klitzman for bringing me in to speak after the film.
I walked through the historic downtown mall of Charlottesville, VA, on Saturday morning expecting a very quiet experience. But to my surprise, it was crowded with runners. It turns out that the city was sponsoring a marathon and the end of the race was at the end of the mall. Still sleepy and not expecting such a crowd, I walked the mall, clearly out of place in my Chicago winter garb among all these runners in their shorts and sleeveless running shirts. I also started to notice a few others at the mall who like me were not runners and not a part of this group. It was three or four men, sitting alone off to the side with backpacks and more clothes than necessary for the day who I could only speculate were homeless. I also saw a teen standing in the middle of this crowd of runners with a sign that said, "I need your help." I'm not sure anyone saw him, runners and families with small children were strolling the mall but no one acknowledged him. I was struck by the fact that about a 1000 feet from him were stalls filled with food and drink for all the runners finishing the race. I don't stand in judgment here because I too after smiling at him walked by.
I told myself I'd check back after I found some coffee and finished walking around the downtown area. Of course when I went back he was gone. I thought about what Dr. Jim, a street physician we follow in the film, says about needing to get out of where we're at and go to where someone else is at ... it's not always easy to do. We can easily come up with reasons why it isn't the right time or think “I'll come back later” but sometimes that doesn't help. It was a lesson that I'm sure I will learn again and again.
We had a nice little crowd for the screening and everyone stayed after to discuss ideas around criminalization of homelessness, how it is happening in their very community, and what they can do about it. Attendees posed some questions that really got me thinking differently about this issue — like how rapid rehousing and long-term housing can complement each other.
We also talked about how to use the film to get college students more engaged with the issue. The film was partnered with the local Habitat For Humanity as part of the screening. They also served Bodo's Bagels before the screening, the best in town according to everyone there!
We’re thankful to have been a part of this engaging event, and are excited for more campus screenings to come.
- Susanne Suffredin