From Concept to Creation

Needed Change is a seed from which "change" can grow. With the recent tumultuous political and economic situations, many adopted the slogan, "Change we can believe in." But in most instances, we found it only to be a slogan. As time has passed, the hunger for "change" has starved itself out of the picture. Like numerous others, we felt our job was done and we could wait for this so called "change" to show itself.

Personally, we have not been able to find the change and dreams recently promised. Economic stability, careers, doing what we love, and making a difference have eluded us almost completely. From our own experiences in the workforce or with personal business endeavours, we found ourselves in the same boat as many Americans and citizens of other countries, barely afloat.

Instead of wasting one more valuable minute waiting for this so called "change" we have put into place a plan to submerse ourselves in the homeless culture that millions across the world are suffering from. Our goal is not just to document problems like many before us, but to help make the needed change. By doing so, we hope to better understand and address this horrible epidemic.

By becoming one with this forgotten society we will need to learn to survive all over again. From life's basic needs such as food and shelter to handling the mental strain of life on the streets, this will be a test of will and core beliefs.

Kevin Saftner, Galen Sisco, and Drew A. Dayton are taking the first step in creating change. The first step is not words or feelings, but actions. Our journey will take us to the streets of Miami and undoubtedly many more places. With photography, film, and pen we will document our experiences in this whole new world we will be entering. Together we hope to find solutions for the Needed Change.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hey There Bobcats!

Hey everyone, I'm sorry it took us so long since our last blog. Charlotte is so crazy and wild and beautiful and heart-warming that we have been totally engrained and engulfed by it all. I can't wait and hope you all can understand through a blog the wonderful things we are seeing and being part of.

Firstly, I'd like to note again, the sense of brotherhood amongst the homeless in Charlotte. It's unparalled. Within the first week of being in this city, we feel like we've been here our whole lives because of the respect, love, and intrigue shown to us not only by the homeless but by those who care deeply about homelessness.

A personal win for us came through a man we met named Josh. Josh has had a tough upbringing...when I say tough I mean so tough I can not even begin to fathom the strife he has experiences. Seven years ago, when Joshua was 20, his mother, father, and sister dropped dead within a one month period. I had mentioned this in a previous note. Seven years later, with the Lord in his heart, Joshua is more than excited to get off the streets, out of shelters, and to get a job. Getting to know Joshua pretty well, as he took an interest in our documentary, he started hanging around with us. We pointed him out to a jobfair, rounded up a couple bucks for him to get a bus pass and his resume together, and followed him there. First 200 people in got Charlotte Bobcat tickets. Being that a total of under 200 showed up, we also took the tickets and went with him later that night.

About the interview though, Josh blew them away. He is one of the most friendly, charismatic, compassionate and hard-working men I have ever met. Long story short, he used my phone number as a call back and not 3 days later he got that call back and is going to get hired for the job! All he needed was a little encouragement and a few dollars. Think of how much could happen if we all lent a hand and a few dollars here and there. Now I know what you may be thinking, that you would give a few dollars but who knows if that's going to drugs, booze, or something worse. Here's the easiest way to find out...lend an ear, talk to them, listen to them. Not their words but their hearts.

Joshua's story inspires all of us in this to keep going and to not stop helping out and understanding. I still don't understand the riff between the homeless and those who have homes. There are still people that view the homeless as less than human, that it's a crime to be homeless. It's sick and it pisses us off and hopefully we are understanding a way we can change this. Maybe all of us in this forum are the conduits and advocates for the homeless. Guys, we have a hell of a platform here to make a difference, we aren't lying when we say we need you to keep creating a buzz about this. Get everyone involved if you haven't yet. We're going to change something, even if it's not everything, it's going to be something. Thanks to you it already has changed lives.

Going to the Charlotte Bobcat game with Joshua was awesome. Who would have ever pegged us as people who go to NBA games. He was so happy to be out of the shelter and just taking part in a common social activity that can be taken for granted. He told us the best part about it was just forgetting about life in the streets and shelters for a few hours and just enjoying the company of three other dudes. Yeah we were in the last row in the arena but Josh was determined to get as close as he possibly could. Not only that, he actually stayed with us for two nights where we were staying. Where were we staying? On the corner of 11th and Tryon in the heart of downtown Charlotte. In a church yard that seemed safe enough to sleep at night and not wake up with our shoes me, we've experienced stuff like that as have so many other sleeping on the streets.

Also, in the past 24 hours we've seen a woman go ballistic over her daughter getting a job at Mcdonald's. Not ballistic in a bad way, but ballistic in a way that she hugged everyone within a 50 foot radius and starting calling everyone in her phone to share the good news. People down here appreciate work and the ability to make a paycheck, especially when they are far too uncommon. How many people have you heard people calling work like "flipping burgers at Mcdonalds" something to be ashamed of? To see a woman nearly in tears because her daughter got a job there was so powerful and beautiful at the same time how could you not get caught up in it? These things we see everyday, these things we capture with film, with a still camera, what we hear in conversations is stuff so spell-binding and captivating and we can't wait to share it with the world.

Personally, we'd like to thank this girl named Morgan whom we've met whilst here. As we were walking around she offered us some free samples from a fudge shop she was working. I mean she yelled at us pretty good to come in and try the stuff. As a homeless person who doesn't know where his next meal is coming from there is no time to be picky, sweet-tooth or not. Morgan had been homeless in the streets from quite a young age and for quite a long period of time. The warmth she showed us only compares to that of family members and close friends. She met us a few times just to chat about our project, provide us with information, and to also help us with some food.

We're learning that this project is about help and blessings. When people like Morgan walk into our lives and offer us a loaf of bread, how can we turn it down? She wants to pass along a blessing. The blessing cant be fulfilled for her unless we accept the offering. The nourishment she provided to us helps us to keep moving and to keep helping. This is a beautiful world when we are all connecting.

Connectivity. It's a concept that seems to hold a lot of weight, in our eyes. Programs that tie the homeless into activities makes them have a sense of value, a sense of worth, a sense of humanity. The Urban Ministry, a place where we've spent extensive time, allows the homeless in the area to participate in an art program that would rival that of any university's, choir, soccer, urban gardening, and many other activities. The creativity amongst the artists who gather at the "Urb" is inspiring.

The Urban soccer team, from our eyes, is very successful. It's a co-ed team that plays in an adult league against other clubs and organizations. They've welcomed us with open arms to their practices and games. The game we attended was a playoff game in which they won. They are very good. Not only see the smiles, you see the competitiveness, you see the humanity. We met a guy named Zion the Lion. A Rastafarian who also goes by Black Jesus. He told us, "Homelessness is a state of mind." We can't argue with that.

Kevin made his way onto a Johnstown radio station today. The interview can be heard here Thanks to Steph Gartside for setting this interview up with Jonathan Reed of Hot92 and Hot100. Check it out if you haven't already.

We'd be remissed to not thanks the likes of these people we met during our time in Charlotte...Joe Rob, Douglass, Cora, Casper, two guys named Mohammed, Richard and his brother, Stan, Holly, Thomas (congrats on the new teaching job dude!) E-man (Black Moses), Zion the Lion (Black Jesus), Liz, Aaron, Josh, Dale, Cliff, Brittany, Tyler, everyone at the Urb, everyone at the men's shelter, Shannon, Mister, Nathan, Jules, Natasha, Ashleen, Smackey, Jason, Pooch, Luis, Pastor Tom, Nexus Church, the guy that bought Raivis' Go-Ped for $125, the Dixie Tavern for letting us watch a Pens game in the pouring rain and for future endeavors, anyone who gave us food, anyone who gave us a cigarette, anyone that gave us some spare change, anyone who gave us an ear, anyone whose name we forgot and to anyone who gave a damn. You are everything.

I wish I had the time and capacity to go on and on and on and on and on about all of this. I wish you were all here. I wish I had a camera that displayed what I saw with my eyes and carried the footage back to you guys. If you haven't already, put your belief into this documentary. Our only hope is that the finished project justifies the story.

This was lengthy, so was this week, Philly here we come. Stay safe, we love you all!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Charlotte, NC. Days One & Two!

Hey everyone, hope you all has a great Easter and some time off if you got it. We had a mini-break which was nice, spent traveling from Miami to Charlotte. We were dropped off in the middle of downtown in the afternoon on Easter Sunday and aren't getting picked back up til at least Sunday evening. Right off the bat, the differences between Charlotte and Miami were oh so very evident. Granted it was Easter, the streets of Charlotte were so quiet, unlike any other city I've seen. No traffic, no pedestrians, no tourists, to businesses booming, but the homeless were evident.

Shortly after being dropped off we did some exploring and found a men's homeless shelter. It was nice to get some easter dinner but was better was the people we met right away. This man named Richard greeted us as we were walking up to the shelter, within 3 minutes he hit us with his story. Richard, in his mid 40's, was dressed well and was very hospitable. He worked for the shelter but you'd never guess he was homeless himself until he told us that 2 weeks ago his house burned down and he was left with basically nothing. Luckily he was able to keep his job working on remodeling buildings downtown but he still has to start over. He enjoyed keeping us company, making us laugh, and feel not so out of place.

From there the stories of the people we met grew deeper. We met a guy named Joshua, 27, who, tragically lost his mother, father, and sister all within 5 weeks about 7 years ago. We hand't heard a story of that magnitude yet. Because of the circumstances he ended up in trouble, on the streets and in homeless shelters. Today Joshua beams with hope. He is excited that he will finally be working in the very near future. The guy's communication skills are second to none and I hope we can help him find some sort of job or connection that can help him. He's just one of those people that, when they talk, you listen.

Also at the shelter we met a guy named Pooch who shared with us a lot of information about the homeless culture of Charlotte. Pooch is homeless because of family problems and says it's safer for him in shelters. To us, it's heartbreaking, no one should have to deal with that, but if you're family is your shelter brothers, so be it.

After our time at the shelter we hit the streets. We found this girl named Mena who has been homeless for quite a few years. She's got a great voice and is constantly working on her music to propel herself to higher grounds. She says she sleeps on bus-stop benches and only carries a few personal belongings for fear of being robbed. Beyond that, she has a great mind. She's got some great theories on what could help homelessness, especially women, and we look forward to growing our relationship with her and helping her in any way possible.

The great thing about this project is after we get some of these videos edited of these people, there shouldn't be a problem with posting them on here and on our blog and hopefully getting them a job. So we can't hire these people but you know what, there's about 2200 people following us now, it couldn't hurt to throw it out there. Maybe someone knows someone that could help. After interacting with the homeless the past 5 weeks, I don't think anything is a long shot anymore.

After sleeping just off the side of Tryon St. we made our way to a place called the Urban Ministry Center. This place blew my mind as to the services they provide for the homeless. They have an art studio, a soccer team, a choir, and an urban garden just rattle off a few things we learned about today. The sense of connectivity at this place is something unrivaled and I believe that is one of the biggest things homeless people need and deserve. A feeling of friendship, teamwork, and working together with other people brings them a sense of joy that is often taken for granted.

The people we met today who are staff members at the Urban Ministry Center are doing incredible work. We're excited to get a more in-depth tour of the facility in the next few days. Today, our goal was to get to that place, meet people, allow them to become comfortable with us, and then film later on. I think we more than succeeded on all accounts and are ready to start interviewing the staff and homeless alike tomorrow. We will also be helping the staff running the art department with some projects they are doing right now. That's what this whole experience is all about...helping as many people we can and letting everyone know that the homeless are people too. People capable of making differences, people with ambitions, people with skills and drive, people that need a chance.

From here, we are hitting the streets again. Raivis is anxious to find a job in order to acquire enough money to buy a camera and provide photography to this project. It's awesome seeing him happy by helping out. He's constantly telling us how happy and proud his mother would be of him for doing this and it can get pretty emotional at times but in the end its rewarding, inspiring, and encouraging more than anything.

I hope you guys are excited as we are to be about halfway through this project and still thirsting for more. Catch you all later.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Through the eyes of the homeless

Hey I'm Raivis Gerix i'm from Latvia, small town village "Vilgale". I come to United States many months ago i am an explorer. This is my biggest mission in my life and always happen with me so many good things, and i'm very lucky to do this, but its very hard living homless. nobody can tell that i am homeless when im looking for job or place to stay in the daytime and i never know where i can get a place under the roof after midnight. The nightlife on streets is terribly dangerous, i move from NY city like a month ago to Miami South Beach.

After two weeks on streets walking around i meet so many peoples and then one day i was sitting on chair close to Ocean Drive and thinking so many things and i was very scared and then i meet Kevin Saftner and Galen Sisco and Drew A.Dayton. These guys was something amazing, they are doing so much good things for so many peoples, and i appreciate when they give me a chance to do what i really looking for, exploring America and wanting to see a lot of happy faces everywhere and im so lucky to do that.

This mission to is very dangerous life, and its very difficult to survive homeless, its the hardest life ever, and so many peoples just laugh to see the faces but they do not how hard is it to survive in night. Its very hard to see that when somebody eat a ice cream, or enyoying a cigarette and you have a empty pockets, and is no chance to get something, and then your feelings is terrible, but i know that because i was and i am, in the same situation. Now i have a chance to go back and work, get money, family, and im looking forward to this journey and i'm going to help them how much i can, and together we can do that !

Yesterday we come from Miami to North Carolina - Charlotte, today we are going in wild, looking for place to stay and food and to find the homeless and get stories and help them. I want to see whats happen with their lives and just survive every single day.