Since I’m lucky enough to always have had a roof over my head, it’s difficult to fully understand what it is to be homeless. To wonder where you’ll sleep that night, where the next meal is coming from, how to access health services – it must be a constant struggle. Now add being a teenager to homelessness, and trying to graduate from high school, and your problems are compounded.
The Homestretch, a documentary from Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly, opens up the world of youth homelessness in Chicago, a city where there are 19,000 registered students with “temporary living situations,” and 2000-3000 youth on the streets every night. Kelly and de Mare visit a local youth shelter, with and only 20 beds for the 35 kids who line up nightly. They explore Chicago’s Teen Living Program, which provides living space and social programs to homeless youths, and has a 6-month waiting list. And they talk to the school staff employed specifically to deal with the concerns of kids with unstable living conditions.
The filmmakers also make it personal, following three individual youths through their day-to-day lives. Roque is an undocumented citizen, whose grades suffered because of missed classes before he got lucky and found a teacher who took an interest, giving him a place to stay. Kasey, a young woman who successfully navigates high school to obtain her diploma, but struggles with rejection by her family due to her sexual orientation. And Anthony, an ambitious youth from an abusive foster care situation, holds down two jobs while working toward his GED, and seeking custody of his infant son.
The Homestretch is an interesting and somewhat heartbreaking look at the lives of these youths, and thankfully, offers a few glimmers of hope in what seems like an insurmountable number of social issues.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Hot Docs website.
Screening Times for The Homestretch
Saturday, April 26, 3:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Monday, Apr 28, 3:30 PM at ROM Theatre
Sunday, May 4, 7:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 3