The MacArthur Foundation has awarded a New York-based nonprofit $100 million to expand efforts to eliminate homelessness in 75 communities across the country within five years. Community Solutions was chosen out of six finalists in the competition, with a track record of housing more than 235,000 people in the past decade.
But numbers tell just part of the story. For a personalized portrait of a housing crisis that predated the coronavirus pandemic, and is compounded by it, watch this short new documentary. At eight minutes long, it centers on a woman living in a tent encampment before the city of Oakland bulldozed it. Voice of America acquired Living in a Tent from producers Deana Mitchell and Wendi Jonassen, and it cuts powerfully through the policy headlines to do narrative justice to an unjust story, with inside-the-tent interviews and carefully framed footage that respects the multidimensional experiences of who is telling the story.
The film and grant come on the heels of the United Nations designating the Bay Area housing crisis “systemic cruelty.” And the doc is crushing. It’s also illuminating, pairing urgency with deeply observed storytelling. More than half a million people experienced homelessness before the pandemic on any given night in this country. There’s a recharge to be found in filmmakers doing the hard-to-thread work of unpacking a crisis too often shorthanded or underreported in the media.