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Sympathy for Delicious Brings it Home: An Advocate’s Perspective

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Poverty

In the season of Passover and Easter, I feel obliged to take a more thoughtful approach to reviewing Sympathy for Delicious (SfD) than merely saying whether I liked the film or not. SfD chronicles the life of a newly paralyzed DJ, “Delicious” Dean (Christopher Thornton, also the film’s writer), who discovers that he has the gift to heal others, but not himself. Left to his own devices, this homeless practitioner would most likely have chosen a life of the truly forgotten, America’s chronically homeless. But, SfD has much more in store for the healer, the healed and the heels of skid row.

Enter the encouraging street outreach priest (Mark Ruffalo, also the film’s director) who tries to convince the DJ to use his new found powers for good, the struggling rock star (Orlando Bloom) who sees money and fame in all things and the arrant agent (Laura Linney) with the muscle memory of a Shakespearean temptress.

Thorton does an extraordinary job as the conflicted Delicious. Off screen, at the age of twenty five, the actor sustained a spinal injury in a rock climbing fall that left him paralyzed from the waist down. So in a wrenching scene where the DJ literally faces a work table too high to use and a worker’s unwillingness to make any reasonable accommodation, Thornton’s rage seems all too real.

SfD succeeds as much for what it is as for what it isn’t. Considering that SfD is about faith, its impressive that the film avoids being exploitative, preachy or dogmatic. It’s clearly a straight up critique of the transcendent power of faith. But it also explores Delicious’ journey towards self actualization: recognizing and coming to appreciate one’s own limitations is the one true path to understanding and reaching your full potential.

Ruffalo’s solid direction requires that viewers enter into an urban landscape of poverty seldom observed and frequently ignored. SfD’s power comes as much from its art as its ability to act as an unapologetic in-your-face public service announcement highlighting the depravity of homelessness and the need to bring American home.

Sympathy for Delicious opens in New York and LA this Friday, and Washington, DC next week.  Check your local listings for show times, or watch the trailer today.

-Neil Donovan

“Voluntary Hunger in Protest of Involuntary Hunger”

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Civil Rights, Policy Advocacy

By: Brian Stone

Today, it seems as though there is normalized acceptance of a segment of our population not having enough food or shelter. The proof is last week’s budget cuts which will push those without food, homes and medical care into deeper despair. It is important that we remember what hangs in the balance. In the past, the anti-hunger and poverty movement has responded in a multitude of ways. One of those is known as a hunger fast (or strike) to draw public awareness to the issues the poor face and create policy change.

In the 1980’s Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing at NCH, and Mitch Snyder, a life-time advocate for the homeless, fasted on the steps of the Capitol Building to pressure President Reagan into signing the first legislative protection for homeless people, which eventually became the McKinney-Vento Act. This act provided blanket protection and assistance to the homeless. Mitch and other advocates also fasted to get the federal government to transform an abandoned federal building in D.C. into a shelter for the homeless. Out of this fast the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) emerged, and remains D.C.’s largest shelter.

Former Ambassador Tony Hall has an unwavering commitment to poor people and poverty issues. While in Congress, Hall frequently authored legislation with expansive protections for the poor and vulnerable. In 1993, Hall, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, was dismayed by Congress’s decision to end the bi-partisan House Select Committee on Hunger. This resulted in his going on a 22-day hunger fast. He felt that Congress had lost sight of the issues that our most vulnerable face. The outcome of this fast was substantial. Congress agreed to fund the Congressional Hunger Center, of which I am honored to be a 17th Class fellow; and the World Bank pledged to support efforts to end world hunger.

Eighteen years later Hall feels that Congress has once again lost sight of the plight of the poor, those who stand to bare the brunt of the budget cuts. On March 28, 2011, Hall embarked on another fast to protest the current budget cuts. If you would like to join Tony Hall or get more information on the fast, check out: http://hungerfast.org/.

We must remember that people’s lives hang in the balance. What is more important than cuts made in the name of lowering the deficit is the impact that those cuts will have on a large group of people. Balancing the budget at the expense of the poor and vulnerable is not the answer. This will only prove to further complicate the lives of those who currently don’t have enough, with the likely end result being eventual increases in social support programs.

Hunger fasts, like Michael’s, Mitch’s, Tony’s and many others, have provided protections for the vulnerable and changed policy in the U.S. The time is now. Will you join the circle of protection around the most vulnerable members of our society?

Brian is a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Civil Rights division at the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Living My Uncle’s Story

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Speakers' Bureau

The following was written by a recent college student participant of NCH’s Homeless Challenge program, as a reflection on the experience:

“When I entered the world of the homeless all I had were the clothes on my back, a sleeping bag, and the preconceptions and stereotypes I had created throughout my 21 years of existence. Having grown up with an uncle who struggled with homelessness for a length measured in years, I thought I knew it all. But you can’t truly understand what it’s like through a story.

Forty-eight hours may not seem like a long time now, but those two days held a week’s worth of activities and a lifetime’s worth of change. We walked many miles, mostly because when we weren’t walking, we were cold. When we got tired of walking, we watched businessmen walk past us. We became invisible. We got used to being invisible, we took advantage of being invisible, and then we got sick of being invisible. We appreciated the small things. Celebrations were often but short lived, like smiles. We befriended pigeons, squirrels, and other homeless people, the only things not scared of us. We experienced the homeless community. We made friends. We saw the city.

We scoured the trash. We searched for caring eyes, but instead found averted eyes. We went crazy. And we became sane. We found the meaning to life, the importance of friendship, the power of money, and the makeup of happiness. We transformed.

When we finished the challenge, we had the opportunity to hear the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau. My uncle and two other wonderful speakers stood at the front of the room, taking turns sharing their stories to a room full of transfixed students. Hearing my uncle turn back the pages of his life, recounting his struggles and tragedies, my mind was reeling with empathy and understanding. I have lived my story for 21 years.

But for the past two days, I lived his.”

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