Our friend David J. Neff of Austin-based Lights.Camera.Help. has contributed this guest post about an exciting new campaign around online gaming for social good:
At Lights. Camera. Help. We talk a lot about the power of documentary film and video for making measurable, on the ground impact — which is exactly what a new project from Chicago-based Kindling Group is doing for the issue of homelessness. It’s a transmedia campaign called @home, and it’s using documentary film, social media, and a smartphone “game for change” to educate and inspire action community by community.
I recently took an amazing course on Gamification from the Wharton School. As part of that I learned a lot about transmedia and gamification. I’m seeing more and more transmedia projects exploring issues from a multitude of angles, but the addition of @home’s mobile app — which you can play tailored to your own city — is particularly exciting. As you follow the game’s neighborhood map, you watch video interviews with homeless individuals, and by solve location-based puzzles (like deciding whether a person qualifies for supportive housing). And, as you progress through the game, you’ll raise funds for real home move-in kits for homeless individuals in your community.
The @home team created a prototype of the game at POV’s Hackathon last month, and produced a video documenting the experience. Watch to see a walkthrough of this innovative smartphone game:
And support this project’s current crowdfunding campaign here.
This year at SXSWi we had a chance to view this amazing documentary film about how Twitter is being used across the country. Among the stories featured in the film, is that of our friend Mark Horvath (Invisible People TV) and one homeless woman who has been able to find friendship and support using Twitter:
Most of us “good citizens” pass by these lost souls every day on their way to work or school. They stand on the roadside flying their signs, scanning the cars in hopes that a handout will appear from one of the rows of windows where faces are deliberately turned away. Every once in awhile, someone will hand them a few dollars, avoiding any real contact before driving off to an “important” destination.
We aren’t too worried about these guys. It’s common knowledge that they’re just out there panhandling for money to buy drugs and booze, right? Besides, they can always get a meal at the local shelter or soup kitchen. We live in the land of plenty, right? There are lots of programs–public and private–to feed these folks.
That’s why the mission of Mobile Loaves & Fishes isn’t “feeding the homeless”. Oh sure, our army of volunteers do prepare meals and take them out to deliver them to the poor and downtrodden on the streets of five cities. But the food is really just an excuse to go out there and spend time with the homeless. It gives us a reason to put our oh-so-important lives on hold, if only for a couple of hours, and go meet fact-to-face with the people in our communities who are not only in need of a meal, but who are profoundly heart-hungry.
Despite what many think, being homeless isn’t a result of not having enough money or food. Those are just the byproducts of homelessness. What this condition is about is a loss of family and community. It’s about having nowhere else to turn as they fight their pain, addictions, or illnesses. They may have been kicked out of their homes by family members who have had enough, or they may have left of their own volition– giving up the fight and giving in to the causes of their dysfunction. Either way, it’s a downward spiral of self-destruction that perpetuates itself, making it harder and harder each year to come back.
And then, there is the guilt. Haunted by thefts, acts of violence, lies, or other misdeeds committed in the throes of addiction or mental illness, they have no way to seek forgiveness and have lost hope that any exists for them.
This week, the Mobile Loaves & Fishes staff read this moving passage during our staff meeting:
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleading.
If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
for this we revere you.”
- Psalm 130
How many times have each of us begged for forgiveness after doing something we may have thought unforgivable, and then found it offered willingly from the people who love us? Is there anything so sweet as genuine forgiveness, putting our hearts at ease when we know we’ve done wrong? A kind smile and an embrace, assuring us that whatever faults we have, or how we’ve transgressed, we are still loved.
Truly, forgiveness is a great gift. It is what begins the process of healing. It is what helps us to move beyond our guilt and begin again, confident that we are evolving into better people.
Our gift to the homeless isn’t a sandwich and a bag of chips. It’s the reminder that they are worthy of forgiveness. It’s the reminder that God forgives all of us. We let them know that our community will care for them and minister to them for as long as they need us. We freely give them unconditional love and assistance because we view them as our brothers and sisters. We offer a reassuring smile, an embrace–a reminder that whatever faults they have or how they have transgressed, they are still loved.
This month, we aren’t just celebrating 3 Million Meals. We’re celebrating 3 Million Hungry Hearts who have been reminded that they are not alone. We also celebrate a community of people who are willing to come together to share in the humanity of giving love along with physical nourishment to those who need it most.
“Lost in Woonsocket” is a powerful film that was the driving force behind the creation of the Mobile Loaves & Fishes truck communities in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
In 2005, while filming a documentary TV show in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the filmmakers discover two homeless alcoholics living in the woods who have been missing from their families for years. The filmmakers offer to assist the men in getting their lives back on track, and it sets into motion a profound series of events that test the faith of everyone involved. What happens next reveals the power of a simple helping hand extended to two men seemingly beyond any hope of redemption. Lost in Woonsocket is a gritty, real-life story of love, faith and forgiveness, a testimonial to saving the world—one life at a time.
Watch this powerful film THIS SUNDAY, on “Super Soul Sunday,” a three-hour programming block airing Sundays from 11-2 p.m. ET/PT.
Bruk and Robin, a formerly homeless couple who beat the odds and have been able to build a beautiful life for themselves, brought a unique perspective to the group. Here they are recording a message for their sweet “Sasser” who is home with a sitter while they are on the retreat.
Alan ran across a homeless chap named Roger playing piano at the University United Methodist Church
The group found themselves embedded in a “Decentralized Dance Party” that cropped up downtown on Friday night:
Alan woke up early on Sunday morning and recorded this message:
Musical performance at the Church Under the Bridge on Sunday morning
A big cheer from all the Street Retreat participants!
University of Texas fans face off against fans of Texas A&M to raise money for Austin’s homeless community.
Text “UT” to 20222 or “TAMU” to 20222 tocontribute $5.00 to Mobile Loaves & Fishes and find out which team has the fans with the biggest hearts!
A one-time donation of $5.00 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Donor must be age 18+ and all donations must be authorized by the account holder (e.g. parents). By texting YES, the user agrees to the terms and conditions. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of the Mobile Loaves & Fishes by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Message & Data Rates May Apply. You can unsubscribe at anytime by texting STOP to short code 91011; text HELP to 91011 for help.
The very powerful I Am Here campaign that lifted Danny & Maggie off of the streets of Austin has accomplished its initial goal; to lift a chronically homeless person off of the streets. In fact the campaign was so penetrating that the national media coverage is something just short of miraculous. Go check out www.iamheremlf.org for a complete synopsis of the campaign.
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive but there have been a few negative naysayers. Some particularly in the neighborhood immediately around the area where Danny & Maggie lived and panhandled are very pessimistic about the prospect of their success to stay off of the streets. Their concerns are legitimate. What if Danny & Maggie don’t make it? What does it mean to Mobile Loaves & Fishes and what does it say about the I Am Here campaign?
In the United States, 30,000 children a year age out of the foster care system, meaning they turn 18 and the family no longer receives compensation for them. According to the Child Welfare League of America, 25 percent of these children become homeless. They are often left with nothing and forced to survive on their own.
I had the pleasure of meeting one of these bright young people recently in Downtown Austin. Her name is Kristine. She is 19 years old, formally homeless and a living example of one of the many factors that leads to the homeless epidemic in American cities. In spite of her circumstances, she is yet optimistic about the future, working to change her situation and willing to provide us with insight into her world. I am glad to say that she is no longer homeless. Please take a moment to listen to her story…