The Obscenity of Child Homelessness

Eviction: the Hidden Homeless

The Vision (2010)

Film Review

This documentary studies the devastating effect of homelessness on children. It profiles two British working class families caught between the high cost of housing and hopelessly bureaucratic social services. In both families the father is the bread winner – in one case a bus driver and the other a landscaper.

When the families suddenly become homeless, they are placed in a bed and breakfast, at enormous cost to the local authorities responsible for housing them. This approach – placing families in hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation – is obviously very costly and significantly reduces the number of families local authorities can help. One of the families profiled must compete with hundreds of other homeless families in an on-line lottery for public housing units.

The film emphasizes the horrendous stress homelessness places on children. Besides missing out on regular nutritious meals (due to lack of cooking facilities), frequent placement changes causes them to miss a lot of school. Those who manage to attend face stigma, bullying and deteriorating achievement. Homeless children, on average, miss eleven weeks of school. A single episode of homelessness doubles the odds that a student won’t complete secondary school.

Above all, homeless kids face the continual threat they will be referred to child protective services and be removed from their parents’ care.

The documentary also poignantly depicts the cruelty of one housing bureaucracy when it rules ones of the families as “intentionally homeless,” after the department responsible for their housing subsidy misses the payment deadline to the department that collects their council house rent. This label –  “intentionally homeless” – automatically disqualifies the family for government subsidized housing.

Abortion Diaries: Using Pregnancy to Stigmatize and Shame Women

The Abortion Diaries

Directed by Penny Lane (2005)

Film Review

The Abortion Dairies features twelve women discussing their personal experience with abortion. Their reminiscences reflect their resentment and anger over the stigma, shame and utter absence of support they felt struggling with an unwanted pregnancy that threatened to destroy their lives.

One women, who genuinely desired to keep her baby, is also highly critical of welfare reforms introduced by Bill Clinton that make it virtually impossible for young single women to raise children on their own.

All deplore taboo around public discussion of abortion despite its prevalence  (annually 1.3 million US women undergo the procedure). Thirty-four percent of teenagers will fall pregnant before age twenty.

Third World Mental Health Initiatives Put US to Shame

People and Power – Out of the Shadows

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

Out of the Shadows celebrates the hard work of third world activists who have dedicated their lives to bringing mental health care to their countries. It presents a striking contrast to the neglect and abuse the mentally ill experience in the US.

Globally half a billion people suffer from mental disorders, such as depression, bipolar illness and schizophrenia – more than all AIDS, malaria and TB cases combined. Yet owing to profound stigma, publicly funded mental health services are virtually non-existent in many third world countries. India, for example, spends less than 1% of their health budget on mental health. And in Togo, mentally ill men and women are chained to trees.

The documentary highlights activist-created programs providing free mental health services (funded by private European and Canadian donors) in India, Benin, Ivory Cost, Burkina Faso and Jordan.