Street Life: Faces Uncovered
By Neal Karski, George Min, Tyler Dubiak and Scott Hilburn (2016)
Street Life is a portrait of the Chicago’s homeless population. It begins by demolishing the myth that homelessness is a lifestyle choice. In addition to a wealth of statistics, the documentary includes interviews with homeless Chicagoans, social service workers, homeless advocates and random passersby. I found it intriguing that none of the women interviewed blamed the homeless for their predicament – while more than half the men did.
On any given night 750,000 Americans are homeless, and yearly 25-35 million spend some nights on the streets or in shelters. Worldwide 100 million people have no housing at all while one billion have grossly inadequate housing. Last year, over a million American children were homeless at some point.
In examining the causes of chronic homelessness, filmmakers identified the following breakdown (in Chicago):
- 48% suffer from chronic drug or alcohol addiction
- 32% are mentally ill
- 25% are victims of domestic violence
- 15% are unemployed veterans
- 4% have HIV or AIDS
Because the homeless make huge demands on the public health system, it costs taxpayers far less to pay for their housing than to leave them on the street. After starting a Permanent Supportive Housing program two years ago, Illinois lawmakers reduced emergency room visits by 40%, nursing home days by 975%, inpatient days by 83% and psychiatric services by 66%.