Evanston library screens documentary on homelessness

Hal Jin, Reporter

The Evanston Public Library screened a documentary Sunday afternoon on the issue of homelessness that led to conversation among residents about the issue both within the city and across the nation.

The film “@home,” directed by Susanne Suffredin, follows internet-savvy activist Mark Horvath as he interviews homeless people and organizations. The film covers the perception of homelessness as a personal failure rather than a societal issue.

A question-and-answer with Suffredin and Paul Selden, the executive director of Evanston nonprofit Connections for the Homeless, followed the documentary screening.

Horvath runs invisiblepeople.tv, a website dedicated to recording the stories of people who are homeless. In his interviews with homeless people, Horvath regularly asks them what three wishes they have. People often answered that they want a place to stay, a job and to be able to help other people in their situation. Horvath spoke in the film about how he uses social media to spread the word about his cause.

“It was only social media that made my activism have any influence,” he said in the film.

For a large portion of his life, Horvath lived on the streets in Los Angeles. During that time, he was an addict and spent about $300 a day on drugs.

“The years of drug addiction and homelessness was very hard on him,” Suffredin said. “Perhaps he is still dealing with some issues he developed during that time.”

Suffredin, who is an award-winning Chicago-based filmmaker, said she applauded Horvath’s bravery and passion, describing him as a “very out-of-the-box, very spontaneous” figure.

The screening drew an audience of about 50 people, including a recently homeless couple, Rico and Kim, both 50. The married couple, who asked to be identified only by their first names, said they have been homeless for five weeks after their house was foreclosed. They came to the screening straight from a soup kitchen, they said.

“Sleeping on the streets is tough,” Rico said. “I stay up nights for Kim because you don’t know what kind of people are on the streets with you.”

During the question-and-answer session, Suffredin and Selden emphasized that aside from a moral obligation to help the homeless, it is financially cheaper for the city to move people into affordable, permanent housing, rather than pay for temporary services.

Selden said Evanston residents need to demand affordable housing at City Council.

Before the documentary began, Evanston resident Faye Walker, 75, spoke on this issue.

“I find myself thinking, sometimes, that it’s a character issue,” she said. “I come to see these kinds of documentaries to remind myself to not fall back into that line of thinking.”

Email: [email protected]