'Lost In America' Documents The Reality Of Youth Homelessness In America

03/31/2015 04:03 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

"Lost in America" is a compelling new documentary that takes a look at the reality of homeless youth in America.

While certainly not the first documentary to elevate issues surrounding the issue, "Lost in America" is unique in the large-scale coverage it provides to this nationwide epidemic. The film, which is currently engaged in an Indiegogo campaign, is directed by Rotimi Rainwater, who lived on the streets of Florida for almost a year.

The reality is that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT in America. The Huffington Post chatted with Rainwater this week about the implications of this fact, as well as his goals for "Lost in America" as a whole.

The Huffington Post: What is your concept/vision for this film? Why is it important?
Rotimi Rainwater: My vision for the film is to show the first national spotlight on youth homelessness in America -- to finally shed the light on this epidemic that so few are seeing. The film will be a mix of a series of vignettes telling the stories of homeless youth across the country, mixed with interviews of members of the Senate and Congress as well as leaders of organizations across the country. There have been other films about youth homelessness, but they generally tell the story of a few youth, in one specific area, over a period of time. "Lost in America" is the first "Michael Moore" in scope look at the problem on a national level. It tackles the main issues that surround youth homelessness: sex trafficking, the failure of the foster care system and the epidemic of rejection of LGBT youth in America. It also looks into why youth end up on the streets, what they have to do to survive and asks the question: why, as a country, do we not do anything about this?

How is this film personal for you?
This film is very personal to me because I spent nine and a half months homeless on the streets of Orlando, Florida. I was in the Navy when my mother first got cancer. It took me a few months to get discharged and by the time I did my mother was already in a long-term hospice program and had lost her apartment. So I spent the next nine and a half months first living in my car, then in a park and an underpass while taking care of my mother. I got to experience first-hand the rejection you experience when you're on the streets, the feeling that no one wants to see you, that they all wished you would just disappear. It was heart breaking and difficult to fight through.

What kind of stories can we expect to hear/see through this film?
We have travelled the country for the past year gathering stories from all walks of life. We've met youth on the streets because their parents died and everyone forgot about them so they lived in their abandoned family home for years with no electricity or running water. We have stories of LGBT youth who are on the streets because their parents couldn't accept them and now they are being preyed upon.

Why is this film important?
This film is important because there are over 1.5 million homeless youth on the streets of America every year and, honestly, as a nation most of us don't know about it. It is an unseen epidemic this country is facing. Unfortunately, because we are not pushing it as a nation, our government is doing very little about it. There has never been a national study on youth homelessness, ever. So the government says it's between 1.6 - 2.8 million youth on the street, but then HUD says it's only 45,000. The one thing that is stopping the Senate from passing new legislature to help these youth is that everyone involved is adamant that there has to be money in there for LGBT youth. And the Republican-run senate has said directly, we won't pass any Runaway & Homeless Youth Act legislature with special provisions in their for monies for LGBT youth.

The reason this is so important is that over 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBT. So now there are over 400,000 LGBT youth on the streets, afraid to go to most shelters because they will be preyed upon. We have stories of these youth being victimized, raped and beaten all because they are LGBT. So they are forced to live on the streets, with little help and so many end up forced in to sex slavery or prostitution. We work directly with Senator Patrick Leahy and other members of both the Senate and Congress who are fighting to get this legislature passed but are being told directly that this will not pass until they take out any monies allotted to LGBT youth. This is unacceptable, and this is why these stories have to be told and why this film has to be made.

Head here to visit the "Lost in America" Indiegogo campaign.

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