LOST IN AMERICA
Finding a way to help find those who have been… Lost In America… One Man’s Journey from Homeless Youth to Filmmaker.
By Rotimi Rainwater, director
My name is Rotimi Rainwater and I used to be homeless. It took me a very long time to be able to say those words. It’s a lot easier to make up stories about your childhood and life than to admit that your mother fought a losing battle with depression and alcoholism, which ended up with her dying of cancer and you in the streets. It was 1989, I was in the Navy in Florida when I found out my mother had Cancer. It took me two months to get out of the Navy, and when I finally was discharged, I found myself with no place to stay. My mother was in the hospital, our apartment was gone, and family members wanted nothing to do with me. So I did the only thing I could. I took to the streets, and they would become my home for the next nine months. When I finally got off the streets I never wanted to look back. In fact, I spent the next 20 years hiding the fact that I was ever homeless as I struggled to make it in the film business.
I am a writer/director now and last year my first feature film, Sugar, was released in theaters. It starred Shenae Grimes as a homeless youth figuring out how to make it on the streets. Sugar was supposed to be a journey that would help me get over my past. But in fact making that film, or more specifically meeting the homeless youth who would come watch Sugar, made me face the emotions that up until that point I’d managed to hide. It made me realize that I hadn’t dealt with the issues of abandonment and the pain that I still had. But more than that, this journey gave me a unique look at the state of homeless youth in America today. And honestly, it broke my heart. The same way it broke my heart when an 18 year old homeless youth in San Diego, he didn’t tell me his name, approached me after my Q&A at the screening of Sugar and asked me, “How did you get past it? How did you get over it?” and I didn’t have an answer. You see, being on the street isn’t the hardest part about being homeless. It’s the moving on. It’s the getting past the fact that you’ve faced rejection or abandonment, sometimes from those who are supposed to love you most, and learning how to piece your life back together. Myself, I just buried all of those emotions deep inside of me and didn’t talk about it for years. But that one honest moment in San Diego and the walls came crashing down and I’d realized I was still dealing with that pain. And if I, at 42, am still dealing with that, how can we expect the youth on the streets today to be able to overcome those issues and move on with their lives with out us? So as I did press for Sugar I started asking that question to people? And I started asking why are there over 1.3 million homeless youth living on our own streets, and nobody seems to care?
I’ve heard so many answers to this question as I’ve done press for Sugar. Answers like; it’s because nobody cares, or because no one wants to see this in our own country. But I can’t accept that. I can’t believe we live in a country so apathetic towards homeless youth that we’d close our eyes to the fact that over 30,000 homeless youth die on our streets every year. So I decided to continue my journey to shine the light on the issue of homeless youth with a new documentary feature entitled, Lost In America. And honestly, they were right. I’ve interviewed people across America and most people I’ve met believe that these children are just lazy, or dirty; that they’re drug addicts who have a choice and are choosing to be on the streets. They believe that these youth can either go to a shelter, or go home, but instead they chose to sleep on the streets because they want to.
So now I have my journey ahead of me, to show that these youth are not choosing the streets. To show how little is available to them, how little is being done by not just our government, but us as a nation, and to show how easy it would be for any of us to become…. Lost In America. The film is an all encompassing look at the issue of homeless youth. It tells the stories of many of these children living on the street. But it also interviews members of congress and the senate, heads of organizations across the country, as well as takes a look at the main issues that face these youth; sex trafficking, foster care, and the sense of abandonment they all feel. It is the best I can do to shine the light on these youth. But I need your help.
So please, help me. Get educated on this issue. Volunteer at your local youth shelter. Go to your social media, to your neighbor, to your government and give a voice to these youth, give a voice to the voiceless. Do something to help what has become this nations modern day pandemic.
For more information go to www.lostinamericafilm.com or www.facebook.com/lostinamericafilm
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