I've been committed to helping the homeless for as long as I can remember. I recently finished a documentary feature film called Without a Home, where I set out on a journey to understand more about the homeless people living in my native city of Los Angeles. I wanted to know who these people were, why they were out there and how and what I could do to help them. My experiences filming left an indelible mark on my life and I am forever changed and eternally grateful for my experiences and the relationships I formed.
Though my movie is finished, I remain just as passionate about not only helping the homeless, but also shifting the ways in which we as a society perceive and treat homeless people. I know in my heart that everyone wants to do good and to help those who are in need, but homelessness is a difficult and complex subject to navigate and understandably leaves many of us overwhelmed.
First of all there are a lot of homeless people, especially in Los Angeles, and it's overwhelming to think about how anything or anyone could really help them all. A sea of upsetting and heavy questions and issues are raised when we start discussing the issue and many of them have no easy answer. There are addicts who need support and people wandering the streets with untreated mental illness; veterans missing limbs, scarred physically and mentally by the wounds of war. There are young adults and children who have been abandoned and discarded by their families, victims of abuse who were not fortunate enough to grow up in a loving environment. And what about those who are incarcerated, where scarce resources in jails, make it that much harder to break the cycle of poverty and neglect? And of course these are only some of the issues that homeless men, women and children are up against. Everyone has a story and everyone's story must be heard.
But I know it's depressing to hear about all these sad stories and too often when we feel disheartened, we look the other way, and so many of us do. We look the other way as we wait by the freeway offramp, instead of looking into the eyes of the woman with the sign asking for money. We drive by a homeless man lying on the pavement, who for all we know could be dead. And as the temperature drops and the sun sets, we keep driving. And suddenly it's as if our world has split in two and it's us and them. But what would happen if we stopped looking the other way? If we started looking closer at the problem and even closer at the people who are suffering and in need? I think this is where the real change begins.
After all, how can we truly help others if we don't know who they really are?
So in my quest to continue to help the homeless and also attune and adjust our own collective societal outlook on the situation, I have created a new campaign called What Can I Do?
What Can I Do? is a grassroots movement that will raise awareness and compassion about homelessness through art and social action. From this place of shared consciousness and awareness I believe lasting change can happen.
So I am gathering a collective of talented artists whose immense talent is met by their shared passion for helping the homeless. Gregory Siff, Ramis Kim, Lili Cuzor, Zach La Roc, Jessica Fleischer and Chris Chinn, are just some of the remarkable artists who have generously created beautiful and provocative pieces that reflect what homelessness means to them. Their thoughtful and personal work, provides us with an opportunity to look closer, to open a dialogue where we can meditate and begin to ask questions, free of fear or judgment. As we begin to break down this invisible wall, my hope is that people will begin to truly ask "What can I do?"
So to answer that very question, a different local homeless organization will be paired alongside each monthly work of art (see below). Each organization will be providing you, our audience, with direct access to a plethora of resources and volunteer opportunities within the Los Angeles community. As the campaign expands I hope to provide the same service for other communities as well.
Commencing the launch of the campaign is a powerful piece of work (see below) from artist Lili Cuzor, entitled "Just Her," and it has been paired with an incredible local homeless organization called PATH (People Assisting The Homeless).
If you are already active within the homeless community, I hope that this campaign will provide you more information and opportunities about what you can do to help. And if you've always been looking for ways to help the homeless, but have felt unsure or overwhelmed, I promise that this campaign has something wonderful and fulfilling to offer you too. The solution requires as much if not more from us as it does from local and government programs and funding. When we all do our part and offer even the smallest gesture of compassion the possibilities are infinite.
To learn more about what you can do, please follow us on Twitter and join our Facebook group to receive our weekly calls to action, sponsored by our featured organization of the month. Our calls to action are custom-made by our organization of the month to best serve their specific needs and help engage and involve all members of our community in becoming a part of the solution.
You can also visit our website to learn more about the campaign, and while you're there be sure to sign up for our mailing list. If you are an artist or organization interested in becoming a part of the campaign please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.