7.1/10
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The Homestretch (2014)

Three homeless teenagers brave Chicago winters, the pressures of high school, and life alone on the streets to build a brighter future.

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The Homestretch follows three homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future. Each of these smart, ambitious teenagers - Kasey, Anthony and Roque - will surprise, inspire, and challenge audiences to rethink stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while facing the trauma of being alone and abandoned at an early age. Through haunting images, intimate scenes, and first-person narratives, these teens take us on their journeys of struggle and triumph. As their stories unfold, the film connects us deeply with larger policy issues of juvenile justice, immigration, foster care, and LBGTQIA rights. With unprecedented access into the Chicago Public Schools, The Crib Emergency Shelter and Teen Living Programs, The Homestretch follows these kids as they move through the milestones of high school while searching for a warm place to sleep, a quiet place to study, the privacy to shower. The film goes beyond high school, to focus on the ... Written by Kartemquin Films

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youth | education | economics | See All (3) »

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April 2014 (USA)  »

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Accentuate The Positive
24 December 2014 | by (Thailand) – See all my reviews

The Homestretch is a documentary about homeless young people in Chicago. The production & presentation quality seem almost irrelevant against the overwhelming issues that are being addressed, but it is a high quality work in technical terms, focusing primarily on three high school age homeless students. It was upbeat and positive in its approach, revealing the devastating problem that exists but not dwelling on the hopelessness and despair that must certainly confront many children left to fend for themselves and it show us the many good people who struggle to offer them support with limited resources.

The Chicago Public Schools have 19,000 children registered as being in "temporary living situations," which is a euphemism for "homeless." We do see that the schools and individuals in those schools are making an amazing effort to deal with the problem, at least with those children who have been identified as in need. One can only imagine how many others in similar situations remain unidentified or lost entirely to the schools.

The three students who are the "stars" of the movie are motivated, positive and optimistic despite their circumstances. In fact most of the young people we encounter are outwardly happy and hopeful and the people offering support seem genuinely caring and selfless.

Nearly 50 years ago I taught in an inner city school on the West Side of Chicago for 7 years. Unless things have changed markedly since that time, I would assume that many children still go unidentified or under-served or encounter bureaucracy & individuals that are minimally caring and anything but selfless.

One support organization that is shown in the movie is a homeless shelter, The Crib, that is able to provide beds each night for 20 homeless children. Undoubtedly there are other similar organizations, but against the stated 19,000 identified by the schools, this barely amounts to a drop in a very large ocean. Even on bitterly cold nights when large numbers of young people assemble at The Crib looking for a warm bed for the night, they are reduced to using the lottery system to allocate those few scattered mattresses on the floor in the shelter.

The documentary is aimed at demonstrating the bright side of the situation, focusing on both the children who are offered support and experience success and on those care-givers who are making a sincere effort to cope with the problem. The film does a good job of that while less pointedly calling attention to the enormity of the issue of homeless children, especially those who fall through the cracks, who are sexually & emotionally abused, whose lives are irreparably damaged. One might come away from watching the film with the notion that a serious problem is being adequately dealt with. Maybe a bit more compare-and-contrast, showing those who succeed against overwhelming odds while offering some insight about the many who many who fail to cope due to their abandonment by family and society, would have made the presentation more powerful.

Definitely worth seeing and hopefully it will inspire many of us to do something about this shameful situation that exists in the richest country on earth.


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