By Kevin Miller. Early one morning this past June, workers from the City of Abbotsford, BC pulled up to a homeless camp on the side of the road and dumped a truckload of chicken manure on the site while those who had been sleeping there scrambled to pull their belongings out of the way.
Photo: Screenshot from the movie of Mayor Banman telling the homeless what their responsibilities are.
Intended as a “quick and dirty” way to disperse this “problem population,” little did those who concocted the scheme realize the public outcry and the legal actions that would unfold. Forced to apologize for their behavior after a barrage of critical media coverage, the City is now facing a class action lawsuit on behalf of the homeless, and an internal investigation has also been launched into charges of property destruction and other abusive behavior toward the homeless allegedly perpetuated by members of the Abbotsford City Police.
Throughout this ordeal, two of the most prominent advocates on behalf of Abbotsford’s homeless population have been Ward Draper and Jesse Wegenast of The 5&2, a rather unorthodox, front line ministry to marginalized members of the Abbotsford community. As luck would have it, just prior to this incident I had filmed an interview with Ward with the intention of creating a short profile of their ministry. But as this incident unfolded, I realized I had inadvertently stumbled onto a much bigger story that had implications not only for the city of Abbotsford but for the issue of homelessness at large.
Over the next couple of months I continued to capture the situation as it developed, filming extensively around the city and interviewing Ward, Jesse, Mayor Bruce Banman, Chief Constable Bob Rich, several members of Abbotsford’s homeless population and various service providers. What emerged was a story of a deeply divided community, torn between their desire to help “the least of these” while at the same time providing an environment of freedom and justice for all of its citizens.
I plan to cut my footage into a one-hour documentary suitable for broadcast, DVD and digital distribution. In addition to raising people’s consciousness about the issues involved, I hope this project can also raise funds for the 5&2, the Warm Zone, the food bank, Abbotsford Community Services and other groups serving Abbotsford’s homeless and marginalized population.
What We Need & What You Get
Up to this point, I have funded this project entirely out of my own pocket. However, now that I’m in the post-production phase, I am seeking funds to help cover the cost of editing, scoring, sound design, color correction, accounting, legal and insurance fees, marketing and distribution. I estimate the total cost for these services to be $50,000.
Raising money for a project like this is always difficult, because I hate to think I’m taking money away from the very groups represented in the film. However, I believe this project can have a multiplier effect by making people aware of the issues involved and motivating them to contribute their time and money to groups who are working to serve those in need.
Normally, we come up with a list of fancy perks to motivate people to donate to the project. However, in this case I’d like to forgo that option, because otherwise I’d have to raise additional funds to cover the costs of those perks. Kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it? I’d rather you consider matching your contribution to this project with a donation to one of the service groups listed above. In other words, instead of getting a perk, give one instead.
By contributing to this project, you can play a crucial role in changing the lives of Abbotsford residents who struggle to stay housed due to addiction, abuse, mental health issues or all of the above. Many times we give money to projects and organizations that help people we will never see. By contributing to this project, you can make a difference in the lives of the people you see in this film. Real people, right now.
On a broader level, I’m hoping this film will inspire people everywhere to view the homeless and marginalized members of their own community with fresh eyes. I know this project has certainly had that effect on me. The social problems Abbotsford faces are far from unique. The same goes for the solutions. A few people of goodwill can accomplish a lot. We just need to get out there an do it.
Other Ways You Can Help
If you can’t afford to support this project financially, you can still play a key role by telling others about our campaign. Like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter. (Just don’t follow me to my house. That creeps me out.)
Kevin Miller is an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who has applied his craft to documentaries, feature-films and short film projects. His most recent film, “Hellbound?” was released in over 45 cities across North America. He lives in Kimberley, BC with his wife Heidi and their four children.