Hot Docs 2014: The Homestretch (Anne de Mare & Kirsten Kelly)

2014_hotdocs_stock_imageScreening for the second time this afternoon at 3:30 at the ROM, as well as one final time on 4 May at 7 at Scotiabank is this strong documentary that shines a light on a heartbreaking subject.

Opening with some terrifying stats, like there are between 2,000 and 3,000 homeless youths on the streets of Chicago every night, and that there are 19,000 high school students listed as homeless in the public school system, the film eschews stats and numbers to put a human face on this sad reality.

We are introduced to three young people in particular, Roque, who has been completely cast aside by both parents, and has taken up residence in the home of one of his teacher’s, Kasey, a young gay woman, who, because of her sexuality was driven from her home, and Anthony, a clever, young man, who has is trying to find a way out of the world he finds himself stuck in.

There is some help to be had, Roque’s teacher, Teen Living Program which runs Belfort House (but has an incredibly long waiting list to get into), the Night Ministry with their outreach program and their ‘crib’ (both of which under threat of losing their government funding), but each of them realize that they have to work incredibly hard to make something for themselves.


It’s sad that these young people had to grow up as quickly as they did, fighting not only to get good grades, but to survive day-to-day. Sometimes they stumble, and make errors, but each of them has a goal in mind, Roque wants to go to university, Kasey wants to go to college, and Anthony wants custody of his young son.

The road isn’t ever easy, and it pains the viewer to see them stumble, but there is hope inherent in the story of these people, though the problem of homeless youth seems to be climbing.

Teachers, filling the roles of much-need supporters and workers, try to help these kids out as much as they can, giving of time and themselves, opening up their homes and hearts to do as much as they can, but the flow of homeless seems to growing, larger and larger, it’s disheartening.

The three main subjects of the film are smart, and there’s always the sense that if they could just be given the opportunity that something amazing can happen, but while they wait and work to better themselves, they revel in the small things, that really aren’t so small… like the idea of a roof over your head, and a clean, safe living space to call their own.

The film is brutally honest, and puts a very human face on street kids, none of them chose to be where they are, but it’s where they’ve found themselves.

Watching each of the subjects find a place to live, to get a G.E.D., to get accepted to a university, to pull themselves up out of a depth no one should ever find themselves in makes you realize that we can do anything we set our minds to, but that we should never have to fight simply to survive.

An important, and heartbreaking film. Take a look and let me know what you think.




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