Heartbreaking tale of homelessness

Heartbreaking tale of homelessness

Heartbreaking tale of homelessness
A scene from Lead Me Home.

A timely docuseries from Netflix, Lead Me Home showcases emotionally riveting stories of homelessness on the West Coast of the US. The story is relatable on all levels as this problem has become a global crisis found in both developed and developing countries alike.

Obviously, the health and economic impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the housing crisis not just in America but worldwide amid reports that global poverty is at an all-time high. According to a UN stats report, 1.8 billion people, or over 20% of the world population, are in need of adequate housing.

Just under 40 minutes, this cinematic portrait of the rising humanitarian crisis gets to the heart of what it feels like to be homeless in cosmopolitan cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles, endeavouring to replace dignity and humanity to those affected.

The emphatic manner with which the story is handled makes the wide array of characters become a cast of recognisable, relatable humans.

It is an eye-opening experience for Asians to watch the epidemic of homelessness in America, which for most of us is deemed a country with wealth and opportunities for all. The audience gets an up-close and personal view of what it means to be despondent in the US via candid testimonials from those who rest their heads in not just shelters but also tents and anywhere a night's sleep can be found.

Once immersed in their stories, viewers soon find a rather dignified portrait of American culture's unravelling edges and the inhabitants that call it home.

Lead Me Home is one of Emmy-winning directors Jon Shenk and Pedro Kos's most compelling works and braces humanity in its entirety, weaving personal stories with aerial vistas, time-lapses and evocative details of contemporary American urban life. It aims to spark a national discourse about the epic scale of this alarming and ever-growing social issue that is being felt globally.

In the US alone, we are told that an astounding 500,000 Americans are homeless every night. Their abode as seen through the lens of directors Shenk and Kos is made of concrete and dirt stretching for blocks strewn with tents and trash. We hear the plight of many who call this home, one of whom is a pregnant mother sobbing as she tells a shelter counsellor that all she desires is a roof for herself and her two children prior to giving birth. A less extreme case is a man greyed by the hardship of residing on the streets who looks beyond his 50ish years caught sleeping in his car while cradling his precious white poodle for comfort.

Loneliness for the homeless can be so palpable that viewers can empathise with them.

While the docuseries manages to grip the viewer's attention, it opts not to disclose its filming locations which makes viewers feel left out, clinging to just the raw impression of what they're seeing, devoid of any subtle bias that might occur if they knew them.

The same goes for the names of the people. Even the handful of public figures chronicled shown speaking about the struggles of dealing with an exploding street population are not named. They're just presented with no introduction or explanation, which kind of dampens the mood of a gripping storyline that covers a wide range of unhoused people -- blacks, transgenders, Latinos, whites, men, women, and children -- in settings from vehicles and tents to group shelters.

Interestingly, the filmmakers conspicuously left out scenes that the audience would deem disturbing, like for instance addicts openly shooting up or the mentally ill experiencing a meltdown.

Another observation is how those most troubled and visually noticeable of all street people are in fact chronically homeless but they are believed to actually be a minority of the homeless population.

Lead Me Home is a must-tell story in this day and age and it'll hopefully inspire real change and that can start with a community-wide coordinated approach to assist the most vulnerable in our society.

  • Lead Me Home
  • Directed by Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk
  • Now streaming on Netflix
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