Storied Streets

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Storied Streets Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful, moving homelessness docu shatters stereotypes.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 61 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Homeless people are just like everybody else. The vast majority don't have substance abuse or mental health problems; they're just people who can't make ends meet, most often because of low wages, expensive housing, and catastrophic medical care. The system of caring for the chronically homeless isn't working; we need to start with helping people get back into housing before they become chronically, long-term homeless. Our society dehumanizes the homeless, and that makes it easier to treat them poorly, even abuse them. Repeated failure to solve the problem results in "compassion fatigue" and leads to criminalizing homelessness, which doesn't solve the problem and is harmful to homeless people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Several experts interviewed are no longer homeless and have devoted themselves to helping others now that they can. Lots of people interviewed work hard at steady jobs but still can't afford a place to live. A few subjects are struggling with substance abuse issues and so aren't good models, but they are shown as human beings doing the best they can; they don't need to be feared, and should be treated with basic human dignity.

Violence

YouTube-type video clips show teens kicking a person lying on the ground, throwing bottles at him, and urinating on him. Other clips show setting a man's hair on fire, attacking and pinning a man sleeping on the streets for fun, and a few clips of fighting from the Bumfights video series. Witnesses mention they've seen homeless people being beaten with a baseball bat; set on fire; robbed; urinated on; and having food, drinks, and urine thrown on them. A man says he was beaten, stoned, spray-painted, and urinated on when he was homeless. A teen mentions stealing occasional snack foods while he was homeless so he wouldn't have to ask for money. A man mentions he thought that dying would be better than suffering more humiliation or having to face the next day.

Sex
Language

Once or twice each: "f---ing," "s--t," "piss," "bulls--t."

Consumerism

The end credits invite the viewer to visit the movie's website to find out how to help. Incidental mention of 7-Eleven.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One subject admits he's been an addict for years and is in a methadone program. A group discusses plans to get dope and that after shooting heroin for a year or so, you don't even get high anymore, you just do it to feel normal. A subject became addicted to opiates after surgery. Many subjects smoke, and people are seen smoking in the background. Several mentions of alcoholism, and that alcoholics are a small portion of the homeless population. Reports and video clips of teens throwing alcohol and bottles on homeless people.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Storied Streets is a documentary about homelessness from 2014, originally titled These Storied Streets. It inspires compassion and empathy for the homeless by showing them as people just like anybody else, and how easily and unexpectedly anyone can lose their home. It also examines what kind of society we are, asks what kind we'd like to be, and offers a different approach to solving the problem. Interview subjects talk about violence they have witnessed and experienced, like being beaten and urinated on, and video clips show teens doing just that, and more. Profanity is rare but includes a couple each of "f---ing" and "s--t." Positive role models are people who were homeless and now work to help others, and hardworking people with full-time jobs who still can't afford housing. Many people interviewed smoke, and there's a lot of background smoking, too. The movie emphasizes that substance abusers are a minority in the homeless population, but there's a trio of interview subjects who talk frankly about their drug addiction.

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What's the story?

Young filmmaker Jack Henry Robbins takes his camera through the STORIED STREETS of America to examine the problem of homelessness across the country. By dispelling myths about what kind of people are homeless, how these people came to be homeless, and how they can or cannot get off the streets and into housing, Robbins' film hopes to change the way we look at the people who are homeless, the way we treat them, and what we can do to, if not end the problem altogether, at least reduce their numbers by as much as two-thirds.

Is it any good?

Director Jack Robbins takes a steady, unemotional approach behind the camera to create a powerful argument for changing the way we treat homeless people and how we solve the problem of homelessness. Storied Streets balances interviews with advocates, some of them formerly homeless themselves, with the personal stories and circumstances of a wide range of people living on the streets or in shelters at the time (2014). The emphasis is on destroying stereotypes about homeless people, showing that the majority are regular people fallen on hard times.

Viewers will empathize with the many moving, sometimes horrific, stories of hardship and humiliation endured by the homeless, and at the very least be inspired to treat others better than with hostility or indifference. The movie also makes a strong case for changing the way we solve the problem, by putting our resources into helping those who are recently homeless instead those with the greatest need and who've been without homes the longest. But other than pointing out that our current solutions aren't working, the film doesn't explore any other options. Teens ready to take an unblinking look at the problem in our country and how we as a society handle it, or don't, can be encouraged to explore the issue further and find ways they can help.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Storied Streets fosters empathy and compassion for the homeless. What kind of people mostly make up the homeless population? How do we as a society treat them? 

  • Did you learn anything you didn't already know about being homeless? Did anything surprise you? Did your thoughts, feelings, or opinions change after seeing this movie?

  • Does the movie inspire you to do something about homelessness? What kinds of things can you do, or where can you look for more information?

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