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Inocente: The Story of Being a Homeless Undocumented Immigrant

When walking through major cities such as NYC, many people unconsciously expose their attitudes toward the homeless. Most passers-by give homeless people frightened glances, shrug away nervously, divert eye contact, and determinedly ignore what they say. We resist admitting this truth, because acknowledging these behaviors draws attention to a major social issue which has gone by the wayside in the United States. Our country’s homeless population is skyrocketing, due to a lack of government-funded mental health care, and due to the income inequality to which undocumented immigrants are often victims (National Alliance to End Homelessness). Despite this, statistics show that Latin American youth make up a high percentage of the U.S. homeless population, as well as other minorities (New York Times). This could be either a result of discrimination in employment fields, or related to the the difficulty of finding work as an illegal immigrant (Student Pulse).

Still, many Americans perceive homelessness as self-inflicted. According to a survey conducted by CBS News, 27% of Americans believe that poor people are lazy (CBS News, 2012). In reality, many people are homeless because of mental illness (National Resource and Training Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness, 2005), or because their status as an undocumented immigrant limits their career options and economically suppresses them, among a vast number of other reasons.

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Inocente is a girl who, despite being a homeless undocumented immigrant and having a history of abuse by her family, passionately pursues painting as an escape from her struggles.  In doing so, she proves that homelessness is not a result of any character flaw, and that one should not  be judged on this basis. Inocente’s homelessness as well as other adversities she has overcome, manifests her strong identity. She makes a decision to be an artist and live away from the turmoil that defines her family life. Inocente’s relentless work ethic, and infinite creative center, separate her from her mother — whose internal struggle with her own socioeconomic status and domestic partner abuse severely impacted her mental health. It is the power of the individual, not his/her emotional, mental, emotional, or political status, which should be judged. “Inocente” is a film which focuses on Inocente’s defining qualities as an individual, rather than profiling her according to her socioeconomic status. In doing so, “Inocente” is making the statement that people who fall into certain demographical patterns or groups should not be considered as statistics. This humanization is a decisive step toward ending bias toward those who are homeless, mentally ill, or an undocumented immigrant.

Some rare individuals are able to use unfortunate situations to take ownership of their identities and stick to their moral strongholds. We ought not to judge people who are affected by homelessness, mental illness, or their status as an undocumented immigrant, because these situations complicate upward mobility, and are not necessarily within an individual’s control. Those of us who are more fortunate must use our resources to reduce the overflowing population of homeless individuals in the United States, and to spread awareness about mental illness and the strife of being an undocumented immigrant in America.

Ways to REACT!

1.  RAISE awareness about the issues of homelessness, mental illness, and the economic struggles of undocumented immigrants.

2.  START a creative fundraiser or event which discusses the issues and raises awareness. Possible discussion topics could include: how we perceive the homeless and whether or not these perceptions are accurate, how some people cope with situations that are out of their control (i.e. mental illness), and the connections between homelessness, mental illness, and status as an undocumented immigrant. You can promote this event via a Twitter hashtag or a Facebook group.

3.  DONATE to support Homelessness Prevention Organizations! The following are examples of reputable organizations, dedicated to the causes addressed in “Inocente”: “National Alliance to End Homelessness,” “Coalition For The Homeless,” and “Homeless Children’s Playtime Project.” Spread the word about Inocente. Encourage your friends, family, and peers to watch “Inocente.” Documentaries are often the best catalysts for social action.

 

Watch the full film here: http://www.mtv.com/shows/inocente/inocente/1702321/playlist/

 

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