By Lucia Viti
Father Joe’s Village brings short film about homelessness to students
Earlier this year, Father Joe’s Village presented “Shine,” an animated short film that highlights the plight of the homeless, to elementary schoolers in South Park.
The film, along with its 30-second commercial, is part of an ongoing effort to initiate community discussions to resolve San Diego’s chronic and ever-growing homeless crisis. The creative twist is Father Joe’s unique outreach designed to capture public attention; they aim to raise “levels of consciousness” to initiate a communal “call to action.”
“It takes a comprehensive suite of approaches, combined with the right support from the community, to overcome the complex struggles of homelessness,” Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages, said. “‘Shine’ underscores the message that we all have potential. Homeless people are not unlike us, with the exception of their circumstances.”
The “Shine” storyline follows animated gem and mineral characters including Nicoal, a chunk of coal who is ignored and abandoned, walking alone in the cold rain, daunted, hopeless, and forlorn. Nicoal is truly saddened until friendly neighbors from Father Joe’s Villages welcome and embrace her. Surrounded by their love, support and services, Nicoal becomes transformed into a gorgeous, sparkling diamond.
“Given the correct circumstances and necessary compassion, services and support, the homeless can shine as we, as a community, can shine,” Vargas continued.
Though released in 2017, “Shine” debuted at South Park’s Albert Einstein Elementary School earlier this year. Under the direction of Julie DeDe — MSW, director of community relations at Father Joe’s Villages — the animated short was shown to five third-grade classes.
“As the mother of a third grader, I think it’s important to spread awareness to our children that homeless people are real people, just like us,” DeDe, a North Park resident, said. “Third graders are aware of their surroundings. Helping them to understand the plight of the homeless allows them to think about giving people a second chance, without judgment.”
DeDe described “Shine” as a lightbulb moment that sparked empathy. The third graders understood the lack of home to go to or a bedroom to sleep in. Admitting that it was hard to explain the complexities aligned with homelessness, the children were eager to extend a hand to show that they cared.
“The kids understood the importance of caring,” DeDe continued. “Under the direction of their teachers, Katie Steimle and Katrin Goldman, the children responded with empathy. The feeling was that together, we can do this.”
Students gathered in unison to write cards, create posters and collect white socks, one of the most requested items for the homeless. DeDe plans to expand her efforts with presentations of “Shine” to other students throughout San Diego.
For the production of “Shine,” Vargas connected with, i.d.e.a. — a San Diego-based marketing firm — who collaborated with Reel FX — a Dallas-based, Golden Globe-nominated animation studio.
“I wanted to direct ‘Shine’ because it’s so meaningful,” Barrett Lewis, Reel FX’s creative director, said. “All creatives hope to contribute their work to something that makes a difference in the world. Crafting a unique and heartfelt narrative with i.d.e.a. about how Father Joe’s Villages helps solve homelessness was that project for me.”
Don Dixon, an animator who also worked on the film, echoed Lewis. He said that his desire for wanting to become involved with the project stemmed from the film’s message.
“As an artist, it’s always a pleasure to work on something that’s not only artistically charming, but also has a strong message,” Don Dixon said. “I had a blast helping lead animation and designing the characters. I believe that we made something very special. I hope viewers find the message moving.”
Vargas described “Shine” as a marvel of art that calls people to social justice by asking, “How can we get our arms around the homeless?”
“I encourage everyone to shine a light on the humanity of the homelessness, a dire situation of crises proportions,” he said. “These people are just like us. And quite frankly, there but for the grace of God go I, you and everyone else.”
Vargas noted that affordable housing is a key element tugging the heart of San Diego’s homeless. San Diego ties with Los Angeles for the lowest rental vacancies in the U.S. along with one of the highest priced rental markets. Despite the average $1,800 price tag for a one-bedroom apartment, vacant apartments are immediately “scooped up,” Vargas said. This combination of circumstances becomes “toxic elements” in facilitating homelessness.
Father Joe’s Village offers both transitional and supportive housing, but its primary goal is permanent affordable housing, based on the premise of “housing first.” Since his arrival, Vargas and his team have reduced the amount of transitional housing from 100 percent of its programming to 12 percent.
“Permanent and affordable housing is key,” he continued. “Otherwise we’re hamsters on a wheel struggling with homelessness. I hope that ‘Shine’ will call government officials and philanthropists into action to make a difference.”
Father Joe’s Villages, San Diego’s largest homeless services provider, works to empower residents to rediscover hope to transform their lives and achieve independence. The Downtown-based facility serves 3,000 meals daily to infants, adolescents, adults and seniors while also providing housing, health care, clothing, education, job training, and education. The organization offers solutions to the complex needs of the homeless, regardless of age, race, culture or beliefs.
“Our mission is made possible only through the efforts of compassionate staff, dedicated volunteers, and generous public and private donors,” according to their mission statement.
“Given the right level of services, support and housing, the homeless can be placed on a path of prosperity,” Vargas said. “We, who are blessed, have an obligation to help the homeless to become productive, self-sufficient members of our community. We, who are blessed, have an obligation to help those who are not as fortunate as us to shine and prosper.”
—Contact Lucia Viti at email@example.com.