YOUNG PEOPLE struggling to survive outside rarely enjoy the luxury of someone—anyone—willing to sit down and just listen. Were they abused? Are they funny? Are they talented? Do they still have dreams?
Often, they're just ignored. Worse, they might be judged and shamed. It's hardly fair. It's hardly compassionate. And it's precisely why the NW Film Center's Project Viewfinder series is such an important endeavor as Portland confronts a crisis on its streets.
For the past two years, the NW Film Center has spent time and money working with a handful of young Portlanders transitioning out of homelessness, teaching them how to tell the world about themselves.
It's not elegant filmmaking. Instead, it's raw and powerful.
We meet David, John, Stone, Devlin (who starts the film as Rex), and Antwoine—each of whom has a different reason for ending up outside at a vulnerable age (fleeing abuse, no parental support, struggles with mental health and sexual identities), but also a lot in common.
While they talk about the stress of cobbling together the basics many take for granted—a toilet in one building, food in another, a shower and laundry in yet another—they give us glimpses into the humans they've worked to become.
Antwoine's now a father. He's a muralist. Devlin is a tattoo artist who's genius enough to pick up musical instruments at will. David makes art, works at Blanchet House, and devotes himself to helping people trying to leave where he's been. John kept sane by writing and now he wants to help queer-identified kids like him. Stone's in therapy and keeps busy painting, dancing, and playing music. And attending clown school.
But while their stories are empowering, they also feel fraught. As if the good things can be snatched away at any moment. That's probably true for most of us. They just know it better.
"It doesn't take much" to be homeless, David says. He's right. And that's maybe why we should spend more time listening.