said that one of the best ways to understand anther person's point of view is
to walk in their shoes. That's what a documentary titled In My Shoes is
trying to do, as it explores the issue of teen homelessness in New York City.
The young filmmakers use media activism to mobilize other young people around
the United States to end the plight of homeless teens.
Clevins Browne, 19, has vivid memories of being homeless while trying
to attend school, do homework assignments and deal with the pressures of being
was that combined with 'how can I get a meal at night?' or basically, if I'm
going to have a roof over my head," says Browne, who lived on New York's
streets with his mother for most of his life. For him, being homeless was not
an excuse to fail but rather a motivation to succeed.
did make things more difficult, but I didn't really want to give up," he
says. "This [being homeless] gives me more reasons to really
Surviving homelessness, Browne says, was a tough battle, especially
since he was fighting it all alone.
didn't want to discuss this with my friends or teachers because I felt that
they didn't really understand, and, they would judge," he says. "I
was pretty much wrong about it. I did open up with my teachers, I did open up
with other students, and they were actually a lot more helpful than I believed
they would be."
Browne is now open to sharing his experience
of homelessness with teens everywhere. He is part of a team of young people who
are creating a documentary, titled In My Shoes.
main purpose of our documentary is to bring awareness to youth
homelessness," he says. "I personally feel that the reason why
nothing is being done about youth homelessness is because people don't really
know that it actually exists. People don't believe that it's a real
film project is sponsored by the Urban Arts Partnership, a community group that
encourages students to use art to address social issues.
"Our goal is to use the arts to wake people up," says
Phillip Courtney, the group's executive director. "The kinds of art
programs we do, they really get young people excited about the art form,
whether it is documentary filmmaking or creating a play. Whatever it is, the
students really get excited about the play aspect of the art. At the same time,
when you connect it to social issues, it's really so experiential for
students are involved in the Partnership's summer program to produce In My
Shoes. Although Clevins Browne is
the only one who has actually experienced homelessness, the rest of the team,
Courtney says, is no less enthusiastic about publicizing the issue.
lot of them know at least, or had experience with either friends or colleagues
who've experienced homelessness," he says. "So this is something
that's very close to their heart, they are feeling fairly deeply about it and
excited about the possibility of having a voice in it."
team, he says, has already found homeless teens in New York City who are
willing to open up and share their stories. They have begun interviewing them
on film. Courtney says many of the team members have been moved by what they've
homeless young people are very resilient, very articulate and they are not
bitter," he says. "They basically want to have a hand in changing
things. For example, Clevins is the kind of young man that looks always on the
positive side of things and what he can do to contribute and give back to
society, even though society has quite clearly not really given back to him."
Courtney expects the documentary to be completed by early September. Clevins
Browne says the production team will use the film as a tool for change.
the documentary is done, we would like to play it in high schools, in film
festivals and get a mass of people watching it," he says. "The next
step afterwards, would be to have people sign petitions saying they agree with
our approach to ending youth homelessness. Once we have those signatures, we
plan to take this over to Congress and actually bring a call for action. We're
going to say to Congress, 'Well, we have this [many] people who feel strongly
about homelessness. This is more evidence that something needs to be
Browne is now heading to college and putting his homeless past behind him.
However, he says, he will continue his fight against homelessness because he
believes serious problems get solved only when people speak up, take action and
never give up.