May 9, 2024 - News

Houston homelessness strategy focus of documentary

Photo of a volunteer talking to people in an encampment.

A still from "Beyond the Bridge." Courtesy of A Bigger Vision Films

The new documentary "Beyond the Bridge: A Solution to Homelessness" shines a spotlight on Houston's housing-first strategy to reduce homelessness.

Why it matters: The film highlights how Houston has housed more than 30,000 unhoused people since it implemented the model in 2012.

  • In the past few years, Houston has been lauded for its approach and viewed as an example nationally.

Driving the news: "Beyond the Bridge" was screened at Asia Society Texas on Tuesday night. The filmmakers traveled across the country to explore how cities are tackling chronic homelessness and why it remains a pressing issue.

  • Houston and Milwaukee were portrayed as cities with a sustainable solution that transitions people into permanent, affordable homes instead of temporary shelters, while also offering comprehensive support services.

The filmmakers visited Houston in November 2022 for about three weeks and interviewed Houston city officials, nonprofit leaders and police officers to illustrate how collaborative efforts are key to successfully implementing the housing-first model.

  • "If an agency wants to be funded by the city, by the county … they have to be part of our collaborative system, The Way Home. If they don't want to be part of that system that utilizes housing as the best practice, that's fine. They just won't get any funding from those resources," Mark Eichenbaum, who led the mayor's office for homeless initiatives, said in the film.

Plus: "Beyond the Bridge" humanizes unhoused individuals and shows how people become homeless and the challenges they face as they try to get housing and jobs.

What they're saying: "We were struck by the massive square mileage that has to be coordinated in Houston. We were also struck by the collaboration — it was something we hadn't seen at that level, especially for a place this big," director Don Sawyer tells Axios.

  • "What stood out is how Houston is doing it. What we discovered is that every community in the country can do it. It's really solvable," says filmmaker Tim Hashko.

What's next: The filmmakers are still working on distribution and are trying to sell it to a streaming service.

What we're watching: The 2024 Point-in-Time Homeless Count & Survey, set to be released in June, will provide insights into the changes in the unhoused population over the past year.

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