Independent Lens: The Homestretch

(Rochester, N.Y.) – The Homestretch, airing Monday, April 13, 2015, 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV, follows three remarkable homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a more stable future. Each of these smart, resilient teenagers – Roque, Kasey, and Anthony – challenge stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while coping with the trauma of being alone and abandoned at an early age. Through haunting images, intimate scenes, and first-person narratives, these teens take us on their journeys of struggle and triumph. As their stories unfold, the film explores their plights within the larger issues of poverty, race, juvenile justice, immigration, foster care, and LGBTQ rights.

Across America, the number of homeless youth is growing at a staggering rate – nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013, leaving school systems throughout the nation struggling to cope with the needs of kids who not only have no homes, but often no stable parental or adult support. In an environment of rising unemployment, poverty and home foreclosures, over 19,000 Chicago public school students were registered in the “Students in Temporary Living Situations” Homeless Education Program in the 2012/2013 school year. With unprecedented access into the Chicago Public Schools, The Night Ministry’s Crib emergency youth shelter and Teen Living Programs’ Belfort House, The Homestretch follows these teens as they navigate a life of couch-hopping, emergency shelters, transitional homes, street families and a school system on the front lines of this crisis. The film examines the struggles these youth face in obtaining a high school level education, and then follows them beyond graduation to focus on the crucial transition period when the structure of school vanishes and they have to find the support and community they need to survive as an independent adult.

The Homestretch is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America keep more students on the path to graduation. WXXI's American Graduate Initiative focuses on providing quality content, convening key stakeholders, and connecting community members to resources and solutions to support educational success from cradle to career.

Pictured: Kasey struggles to find a place to call home after being thrown out of the house when she came out as a lesbian.
Credit: Courtesy of Will Thwaites



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