For many, the struggle of homelessness is only a scene from the window of their passing car. It takes compassion to delve deep into the real issues facing the homeless, and then re-create the experience for the general public to understand. On Saturday, Nov. 13, in conjunction with National Homeless Awareness Month, Lift Up Your Voice, Turning Point Foundation and Ventura Film Society are presenting Views From the Street, two films about life, art, and homelessness.
The event features the documentaries Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists, the story of a talented group of homeless and formerly homeless men and women who create art in the worst area of L.A., known as skid row; and River Haven Update 2010, a short documentary by local filmmaker Phil Taggart, chronicling the lives of past and current residents of the River Haven Transitional Dome Community.
“I have been really interested in providing an opportunity on film for those in the homeless community to talk about themselves and what their lives are like as human beings, instead of a being in a category called ‘homeless,’ ” said event organizer Tim Pompey, a board member for Turning Point Organization.
Pompey, along with Turning Point’s Executive Director, Clyde Reynolds and Lorenzo DeStefano, director of Ventura Film Society, wanted to showcase the progress made by residents at River Haven, a transitional self-sustaining community.
“One of the hardest parts of homelessness is you have nowhere to go to stabilize your life. River Haven offers that opportunity,” said Pompey.
So together they reached out to local resident Phil Taggart, a longtime contributor to the arts in Ventura County, who agreed to make the documentary.
The 12-minute documentary is shot in interview style, showing River Haven’s progression from a tent city to transitional housing.
“It’s become a better place to live, and it’s moving people back into the regular community,” said Taggart. “It’s kind of an update on Ventura’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. It shows how it’s going.”
The screening of Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists is made possible by Ojai resident Beth Sutherland. Sutherland, Coordinator for Lift Up Your Voice, a grassroots project of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura aimed at ending homelessness, purchased the distribution rights for the film as a part of her effort to shed light on homelessness.
“What I love about this film is that it’s people striving to make art, yet striving for something bigger than that,” said Sutherland. “But it’s the art that makes it tangible.”
For four years, the filmmakers, Letitia Schwartz and Judith Vogelsang, documented the lives of several artists from L.A.’s skid row, focusing on the changes and impact art has had on the lives of the homeless.
The screenings begin at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura, located at 5654 Ralston St. The event includes a discussion panel and Q&A. Admission is free. Donations are welcome. For more information, contact Lift Up Your Voice at 644-3898, ext. 101, or www.liftupyourvoice.org.