Movie Analysis: The Homestretch

Trailer for the film. Video via YouTube

The Homestretch is a documentary film about homeless youth in Chicago. The film centers around the lives of three teenagers, Roque, Anthony and Kasey, and how they cope with homelessness and everyday priorities like school and work. The Homestretch was released in 2014 and filmed over the course of the year. It is a film that perfectly shows the struggles that homeless youth face and how their communities can offer to help and provide basic resources like temporary housing and education programs for students who had to drop out of school because of their living situations. The Homestretch changed and inspired my thinking on my semester topic, homeless students in America, by helping see homelessness as a temporary struggle rather than an eternal hopeless situation.

There are a majority of homeless students who struggle with applying for financial aid and scholarships because they lack having a form of identification. Roque, a student from the film, is an undocumented student and does not have any kind of identification. He lives with his teacher, Ms. Rivera, who offered him a place to stay because he had nowhere to go. A huge problem for homeless youth who are in school is providing documentation for identification. Having any kind of legal identification is important, especially for school, because students have opportunities to apply for financial aid and social security. In the film, Ms. Rivera continuously pushes Roque to do well in school and start taking steps to apply for a matriculate card. When Roque was first homeless, he dropped out of school for three months. He went back to school with a 1.66 GPA wanting to fix his future. Fortunately, he was accepted into Northeastern University but can only go to school part-time until his U.S. residency is approved. Roque was fortunate to have a support system like Ms. Rivera and her family because he was constantly reminded he was not alone. The feeling of loneliness is common for most people who are homeless and can lead to emotional distress and trauma. The film underscored that everyone seeks to have a support system for motivation and a reminder that things are going to work out.

A photo of Rocque (middle) and Ms. Rivera (upper left) and her family. Image via Indie Outlook

Kasey’s story showed that it is never too late to start over no matter how many times you choose to give up. There are over three thousand homeless youth in Chicago. Most of these people cannot go to school simply because they struggle with finding a place to sleep and settle. Every public school in Chicago has an unpaid liaison. The liaison usually provides homeless students with school supplies, recommending them shelters to sleep for the night and assisting with other special needs they might have. Most people recommend The Crib, an emergency housing shelter for teens and TLP, Teen Living Programs. TLP is a program that usually has a six month waiting period, and provides a room, meals and support network for youth who go to school or work. Kasey was in the Belfort House for TLP while she was attending school. Before TLP, she was sleeping on the streets for almost a year. In the film she says, “Homelessness is a situation, it’s not who you are…I have to finish school, that is not a choice.” Kasey graduated high school but unfortunately was kicked out of TLP for missing curfew multiple times. She then overdosed on alcohol and drugs and took herself to the nearest emergency room. After her recovery, she applied and got accepted into a new program for homeless youth and moved into subsidized apartment with a roommate.

A photo of Kasey. Image via Los Angeles Times

The Homestretch proves there are youth who have fought homelessness and changed their life for success. Anthony, another former resident of TLP, joined TLP to shape his life back together and better himself for his son. Anthony has been homeless since he was fourteen, and has a son that is placed in the foster care system. Watching Anthony’s story was my favorite part because his strength and determination made him set goals for himself. While he was homeless, he was managing to finish his GED and fixing his life while working two to three jobs. Towards the end of the film, Anthony finally got his GED, set a court date for custody of his son, and was accepted into the YEAR UP program. The YEAR UP program is a more independent program where Anthony can apply to get his own apartment and pay for rent regularly. He will also be able to attend YEAR UP workshops to perfect his social and work skills for a future career.

The lives of these three students show that there are ways to conquer homelessness. Fortunately, they were able to use Chicago’s shelters and programs to help them through these tough times. In the film, the teenagers who were not able to find a place to sleep said they were just thankful to be alive and still breathing. But, they also showed me ways to conquer school and set success for yourself. Anthony said, “The best thing to do is ask yourself how are you gonna make your story better? How are you gonna write the next chapter in your life?” This gave me a newfound respect for homeless youth because they made the best out of their situation, while trying to graduate and make a better life for themselves.

Pictured left to right: Anthony, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Kasey and Roque. Image via AFI Docs Press Room

The Homestretch movie offers a significant method to spread awareness on homeless youth. The number of homeless students in Chicago public schools continues to rise, and there are 1.6 million young people in America who are still struggling with homelessness today. The issues of homeless youth needs to be spread around more because not every city in America has many resources for homeless youth like Chicago because of their lack of funding or the insufficient amount of homeless people in a certain area. I hope that more of society will start to recognize the problem homeless youth across the country and fund for better resources to enhance their future.

The official movie poster for the film. Photo via IndieWire

Works Cited:

  • The Homestretch. Prod. Anne De Mare and Kirsten Kelly. The Orchard, 2014. Documentary.