Sebastian Hughes believes homelessness is a solvable problem, and he's got anecdotal evidence to prove it: He once called San Jose's Salvation Army Hospitality home. Hughes went on to become a local access television and film producer, vowing to one day expose the reality of his former existence.
There's only one problem: No agent, network, or production company expressed any interest in a documentary or pilot on homeless people, but Hughes continues to persevere. He's turning to Kickstarter for help, where it will soon join 170 similar projects contending for funding. Once the campaign goes live, Hughes hopes to submit the film to eight of the 52 film festivals in California, selecting cities where there are at least two shelters. He plans on bringing residents to the film festivals, noting those who attend screenings can vote for the Audience Award.
Hughes likens the show to A&E's Hoarders and Intervention, explaining they follow a "feel good" formula. "We expose the dangers of homelessness and then provide services to help those individuals," he explained. Those with homes and those without inhabit similar public spaces, passing each other on the street, but they rarely interact. Hughes believes that society is afraid of engagement, misled by stereotypes. On-screen interactions will provide personal narratives, enhancing viewers understanding of the homeless population on individual basis.
In the pilot, Hughes is featured prominently, clad in head-to-toe khaki gear, trekking near freeways and wooded areas in search of subjects. They seem prepared for his approach, readily sharing the details of their daily life and personal history, but also reluctant: How can this man, camera crew in tow, change their existence?
"I am involved with nonprofit orgs who will provide services ranging from counseling, substance abuse classes, work programs, tattoo removal, physicals, haircuts, etc., for homeless persons appearing on the show," Hughes wrote in an email, responding to questions we asked regarding a specific plan of action.
Much of the filming took place in the Bay Area, and he readily states troubling facts and figures specific to San Francisco. "One homeless person costs the city $8,000 a month in services and paying for [the] homeless to have permanent housing can cost tax payers $1,200 per month instead."