My Summer Movie List: Recent Films Exploring Homelessness

Written by Erin Murphy, Director of Education and Advocacy Network at the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish.

It’s summer movie blockbuster time! With movies on the brain, I’ve compiled a handful of more recent movies that explore stories of homelessness. Some are now out on video while others are yet to be released. Some are local to the Seattle area and others take place around the country. Get ready to be challenged and inspired at the same time!  

Without A Home

Growing up in Los Angeles, a city whose homeless population exceeds 90,000, filmmaker Rachel Fleischer always felt a deep connection to the homeless. Her desire to understand that connection takes twenty-three year old Fleischer on an extraordinary four-year journey into the lives of six homeless individuals and families as they struggle to find homes, get clean, and survive. Intertwined with each tale is the story of Fleischer herself, as she attempts to walk the fine line between telling the stories of her subjects and helping those in need.

A personal documentary, I find Rachel’s approach fascinating. A lot of documentaries are done by teams, but Rachel struck out on her own, building trust and relationships along the way. I appreciate the question about boundaries as it is a genuine question and once that explores vulnerability on both sides. It’s a question that I still work through in many areas in my life and don’t have figured out yet! The movie is now available on DVD and I think Rachel does a great job on her website encouraging viewers to Get Involved on a local level.

The Homeless Film Festival

The ultimate idea of the project is to provide a platform for homeless people to tell their stories through a series of high quality short films, thus raising awareness, whilst also offering training in employable skills and giving meaningful occupation. The festival also functions as a centralised national celebration of the amazing work achieved by similar groups around the world. Homeless people struggle for the voice of self-representation, whilst film is about representing stories, discourse, and culture; logically the two should be brought together!

I knew there were film festivals, but I never knew there were homeless film festivals until now! Traveling throughout England and Ireland this last spring, I love the philosophical emphasis on challenging power dynamics and inviting those too often without a voice to find their voice through film.


Twittamentary looks at how lives connect and intersect within the Twitter community as the real-time web accelerates serendipity. Bonds are forged as a result of unexpected encounters between strangers as they share moments of their lives in real time….. Twitter users have been invited to contribute story ideas, rich media and videos to the film via the movie’s initial submissions website . The launch of this website in August 2009 soon led to a whirlwind road trip across USA, where the filmmaker interviewed a wide range of Twitter’ers….

One of the featured Twitter users is AnnMarie, a woman from Chicago who was experiencing homelessness and using Twitter from a public library. She shows up towards the end of the video preview, including Mark Horvath, a homelessness social media activist. You can learn more by following them both on Twitter: AnnMarie is @padschicago and Mark is @hardlynormal. The movie Twitter handle is @twittamentary.

Invisible Young

Invisible Young is an inspiring, feature-length documentary that tells the life stories of four young adults, all of whom were homeless as teenagers in Seattle Washington. It takes a revealing look at their families, their day to-day lives, their possible fates, and follows them as they strive for a hopeful, prosperous future. Invisible Young is as much about perseverance and resilience as it is about homelessness.

I recognize many of the shots in this video including street scenes from the Ave. near the University of Washington. When I was a college student at UW, my friends and I would often refer to homeless youth that hung out on the Ave. as “Ave Rats.” Did anyone else just cringe? I still do, every time I remember that. It reveals to me how necessary a video like Invisible Young is and how much the majority of us need to change our understanding of homelessness–myself included. Since when do most of us need to consider good hygiene a danger to our bodily safety? The youth in this video do! The video website provides some good background context for the movie as well.

The film will be released Fall of this year and any profits from the sales and distribution of Invisible Young will be donated to various service agencies in Seattle, including PSKS, Street Youth Ministries, Youth Care and Stand up for Kids. If you would like to support this project in any way, you can contact the project HERE.

So there’s my summer list. Do you know of any other recent films on homelessness? 

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