Houston doesn't have the looming public housing projects ubiquitous in cities like New York and Chicago. Those sprawling complexes and towers were largely built in the postwar decades when the Bayou City was, well, a much smaller place. Even now, as the fourth largest city, Houston Housing Authority CEO Tory Gunsolley says Houston continues to have one of the lowest rates of affordable housing for a city of its size—a shortfall only exacerbated by recent disasters.
"Post-Harvey, the need for affordable housing has increased," Gunsolley says. "More people have realized that it is scarce, so it’s a perfect time for Our Journey Home to come to Houston."
Set to screen in Houston Monday, Oct. 30, Our Journey Home is a 2015 documentary from ReThink, a group that educates and promotes the benefits of public housing with things like public service announcements and a songwriting contest that asked public housing residents "Why Housing Matters." The film follows three families in public housing to illustrate how this bulwark against homelessness keeps them going, working against negative stereotypes. "Once you say you're homeless, it's like your character is out the window," says one of the film's subjects.
"We would probably say that these people are everyday people, just like you and me," says ReThink Communications and Media Specialist Jessica Rosa. "They’re working really hard to make a name for themselves, be a part of the community, further their education and provide stability."
Gunsolley says about 10 percent of HHA's portfolio flooded during Harvey, which, in total, serves more than 58,000 Houstonians. This adds to the existing need for more resources and housing—a need that inspires NIMBY-type reactions from a public that doesn't always understand who public housing serves and why. Residents range from families with parents working toward college degrees to the disabled to the elderly, all of whom tend to stay for an average of 5 or 6 years—not a lifetime funded by public assistance, as some critics say.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with HHA and other local organizations, and ticket proceeds will benefit Way Home’s Welcome Home Fund that provides home goods, furniture, and other costs associated with homeless individuals entering housing.
"At the end of the day, helping homelessness isn’t rocket science," Gunsolley says. "They need a home, you give them a home and services, and that ends the problem."
Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets $11. Cinemark Tinseltown 290 and XD, 12920 Northwest Fwy. Tickets available via tugg.com.