Vital People: The Existence Project puts a face on homelessness to raise awareness

Vital People: The Existence Project puts a face on homelessness to raise awareness

The documentary ‘Moving Day‘, which chronicles what happened with campers and the unhoused in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park, is one of the multi-media initiatives of the Existence Project — a Victoria non-profit that’s trying to create communities where everybody feels at home.

“To do that, we need to humanize the issue of homelessness, which looks like a lot of different things,” explains Meera Mathew of The Existence Project. “But it’s really about centering the stories of people with lived experience in the conversation about homelessness.”

By making videos to capture the stories of people experiencing homelessness, and doing workshops, the Existence Project is trying to raise empathy and awareness.

“It’s important because I think we forget when we talk about homelessness, how human [of an] an issue it is,” Meera says. “These are people that are experiencing it and people that are suffering.”

It’s a situation that’s only become worse — and more divisive — since the start of the COVID pandemic when 24/7 camping was allowed in Victoria parks.

“I have learned so much from this,” The Existence Project’s Kendra Crighton says. “I have learned that there’s not one-size-fits-all solutions. I have learned that people really just need to be listened to as a starting place for a lot of these solutions that we talked about.”

Kendra is a former Black Press reporter who joined the Existence Project after seeing one of its mini documentaries.

“I thought the work that they were doing was really incredible,” she says. “I had been kind of muddling in trying to tell some of these stories and was feeling anytime they were posted on Facebook or published, the comments were so, so negative and I was looking for a way to get past that to call people in instead of calling people out.”

“I think the issue is so fraught, it’s so divisive,” Meera adds. “People are so ready to fight about this and what I appreciate about the movie is that we were able to bring it to a community with a lot of conflict and show a lot of heart.”

By empowering marginalized people to tell their stories, and then sharing them with decision-makers, they’re hoping to effect positive change.

“What I’ve learned is that community needs to be at the center of everything,” Meera says. “People need to be connected. There needs to be social relationships. In any of our solutions. There has to be community.”

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