The Florida Project Is Giving a Voice to the Homeless

The film is partnering with organizations like Community First! to bring attention to a growing crisis. 

- Posted on Nov 15, 2017

Man helping homeless woman

According to Volunteers of America, over 600,000 people are currently homeless and even more live in poverty. They’re often an underserved, unnoticed part of America. Many of these families live in pay-by-the-week motels and struggle to make ends meet. Community First! Village is hoping to help change that.

Community First! is a 27-acre master-planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for the disabled and chronically homeless in Austin, Texas. It’s an offshoot of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a Christian Ministry that takes to the streets to feed and congregate with people in need. 

“It all started with our founder, Alan Graham,” Community First! Director Ed Travis tells “[He dreamed] about just getting one person up off the street, moving him into an RV. Now we call Community First! Village a trailer park on steroids,” he says. “We have people coming, living, moving off the streets and moving into permanent housing with us.” 

Part of what Travis does at Community First! is to help coordinate events for the homeless community and the community at large, bringing people together and creating paid work opportunities for residents of the Village. One event is movie night. They arrange movie screenings at the amphitheater on the Village’s property, and they offer movie screenings open to the public. 

When The Florida Project came across Travis’s  desk, he thought it would be perfect to screen at the Village. 

From writer-director Sean Baker, the drama, which had a limited debut in theaters last month, follows a young girl named Moonee as she spends her summer in a community of extended-stay motel guests in Florida. The film tackles poverty through the innocent, imaginative eyes of a six-year old. It also portrays a population of people who are normally ostracized by society in a humane, honest way. 

“I just feel like a lot of what [Sean Baker] was able to do was really depict people that seemed fleshed out and real, not necessarily portray them with a judgment attached,” Travis says. “It's just like, here's life on the edge of homelessness, on the verge of homelessness. Those characters feel relevant and real, and they certainly felt genuine to me and my experience working with folks on the street.” 

He thinks the film had a huge impact on the people of the Village and hopefully taught those who don’t live there a bit about the homeless, their triumphs and their struggles. 

“People are trying to survive. That's what it comes down to,” Travis explains. “People are doing what they need to survive and it's just hard. People find different ways to cope.” 

He hopes the film and the work his team is doing at Community First! might encourage others to reach out to the homeless in their own community and start a conversation. 

“What [we] live and breathe is just being in relationship with people and not having a transactional approach to interactions,” Travis says. “So just talking to people like they're human beings, offering dignity where you can, I think that's sort of what the individual can do.”

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