Award-winning filmmakers set out to show how US could eliminate homelessness

Sep 12 2017
Posted by: Staff
Award-winning filmmakers set out to show how US could eliminate homelessness

By: Amelia Ferrell Knisely

Homelessness is a “solvable problem,” according to a pair of Indianapolis-based filmmakers who are hoping to shed light on how the country’s “Housing First” approach could effectively eradicate the issue. 

“Nothing ever happens with an uneducated public,” filmmaker Don Sawyer said. “I want people to know that there is very possibly a solution to homelessness.”

Housing First is a HUD-backed approach that appeared in the '90s; the model puts people experiencing homelessness immediately into housing with few to no barriers. The model often provides rental assistance for a period of time based on the individual’s needs, as well as programs that support long-term stability. Studies have shown the model to be effective in reducing homelessness and saving taxpayers money.

Sawyer and filmmaker Tim Hashko, with production company A Bigger Vision, gained national attention after the pair’s films resulted in local lawmakers passing legislation to protect the rights of people experiencing homelessness, specifically those living in encampments. Their second film, Under the Bridge: The Criminalization of Homelessness (2015), which showed Indianapolis city officials forcing a homeless camp to dismantle after developers expressed interest in the land, won Best Hoosier Lens award at the Indy Film Fest.

With their new project, the filmmakers plan to point their cameras at cities across the country – including Boston, New York City, Denver, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles – that have adopted the Housing First approach. 

“The only time I can hear people complain about Housing First is when the model is misapplied – when it’s applied without the sourcing, the case management and the proper housing,” Sawyer said. “We want to drill down and see if (misapplication) is the only issue with Housing First. Otherwise, it seems like it’s a win-win for taxpayers, the judicial system, law enforcement and the most effective (approach) for very vulnerable individuals.”

Sawyer added, “As documentary filmmakers, our first obligation is to the truth. If we find that (the approach) needs more work, then that’s what we’ll show.”

Sawyer and Hashko launched a crowdfunding page through IndieGoGo in an effort to raise $75,000 to pay for the production of the project, titled Beyond The Bridge: A Solution to Homelessness.

“We just keep seeming to run into people who want to talk to us. We can’t run out there right now, we have to get the funding first,” Sawyer said. 

Donations to the project can be made online.

Under the Bridge may be viewed on Amazon Prime, iTunes, GooglePlay and VUDU.  

Cover photo: A scene from Under the 'Bridge: The Criminalization of Homelessness.' 


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