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Saturday, October 1, 2016

'The Homestretch' DVD: Candid Doc. on Homeless Chicago Teens

  • The Homestretch
Icarus Films performs a true community service regarding the October 4, 2016 DVD release of the 2014 documentary "The Homestretch." This film chronicling roughly one year in the lives of three homeless Chicago teens puts very human faces on a problem about which most of us only think in the abstract.

The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Homestretch," which has aired on the PBS "Independent Lens" series, introduces the aforementioned adolescents and their stories.

Roque is the son of parents whose immigration problems lead to the father leaving the picture and the mother quickly remarrying to avoid deportation. Roque stating that only his sister is welcome in the home of his stepfather tells us all we need to know about his family situation.

We also learn that a very caring teacher, who has great compassion for human strays, takes in Roque on witnessing behavior that suggests that he is homeless. This care extends to helping him improve his high school studies and actively supporting his effort to attend college.

A charming segment regarding Roque has him using what is most likely a fictitious report of a raccoon to move from the basement room that is designed to give him privacy into the main part of the house of his "angel" and her family.

Kasey is a lesbian whose sexual orientation gets her booted from the home of her mother. She lands at Belfort House, which is a long-term residential facility for homeless teens that an organization named Teen Living Programs operates. The desired path for this woman is a good independent living situation.

Anthony is another Belfort House resident; his homelessness relates to a history of physical and sexual abuse. His motivation includes wanting to provide a home for his son, who is living in foster care. This guy working two jobs while preparing for his GED makes one want to slap every middle-class college kid who lives off handouts in lieu of having a job. (Yes, your not-so-humble reviewer worked during college and graduate school.)

Film makers Anne De Mare and Kristen Kelly supplement the stories of their primary subjects with coverage of the 20-capacity The Crib homeless shelter for teens and of the general services for the estimated 19,000 homeless students in the Chicago school system. The fact that many school employees donate their services as liaisons for the providers of that support says a great deal about the desire to help those kids. 

De Mare and Kelly further help get their message across by simply telling it like it is without undue theatrics. Roque, Kasey, and Anthony are all likable and the kids whom we see around them seem equally average. The common element is an unreasonably bad home life. One can only hope that the experiences of these kids helps break the cycle when they have their own children.

The special features on the "Homestretch" DVD include the trailer and deleted scenes.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Homestretch" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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