Canada’s homeless have found a friend in filmmaker Daniel Cross. Daniel’s documentaries, THE STREET and S.P.I.T. (Squeegee Punks In Traffic) have won international awards for their radical and very raw take on the lives of homeless people. His current research involves a new project called the Homeless Street Archive as well as other documentaries. With the help of EyeSteelFilm, Daniel founded a non-profit forum for the homeless population so that their voices can be heard.
Homelessness is a subject many would rather ignore, yet it is everywhere according to his website, Homelesss Nation. Homeless Nation is a virtual site created to give the homeless equal access to social media which creates social awareness and works towards positive change. The site went live back in 2003 with the help of producer Mila Aung Thwin, web architect Brett Gaylor and web administrator Anuj Khosla.
One of the goals of Homeless Nation is to create dialogue between Canada’s homeless and the rest of mainstream society since the homeless are made to feel isolated and marginalized. Encouraging others to learn the truth about homelessness from the homeless themselves will go a long way in breaking down barriers caused by the stereotypes most people are familiar with. Giving a voice to the homeless is an endeavor long overdue.
Homeless Nation also has outreach workers that work in conjunction with service providers, participate in community events, protests, travel into the streets and reach out online. Part of their dedication to making sure that social media is accessible for the homeless includes donating computers at drop-in centers and shelters. Training on the internet and how to use the computer are also skills provided.
Visit the Homeless Nation’s website and you will see a community that isn’t so different from any other. This is a place where individuals can share their experiences and connect with others who share the same experiences or reconnect with lost friends. The website can also connect people to much needed resources such as shelter, food, health care and other service or to report the missing. Some of the video posts show a sense of humor as well.
In this video, various members of Homeless Nation talk about what the site means to them. It's a beautiful look at how social media can affect lives and gives credit to the site for doing something that was necessary.
Homeless Nation has earned many awards such as the Canadian New Media Award, Society for New Communications Research Award, 2009 New Media Award and the highly prestigious award given out once every two years by the U.N., the 2009 World Summit Award. Even with such recognition, Homeless Nation still needs financial support to continue operating. Interested parties can donate by following the links on the website.
For many of the homeless residing in Canada, Daniel’s website offers hope to those steeped in a seemingly hopeless situation. Daniel himself is a mixture of filmmaker, producer, activist and teacher (assistant professor at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal, Canada). The cross Daniel bears is a heavy one to carry since it is not easy affecting political change for social justice. To the homeless though, Daniel’s work is a godsend that gives them a voice and a human connection over the internet that hadn’t existed before.
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