movie reflection

movie reflection



The Issue of Homelessness as Seen in Shelter

Tara L. Martin

For this assignment I chose to watch Shelter (2014). This is an emotional movie that follows the story of two vastly different individuals who come to depend on one another for survival while living on the streets of New York City. The main diversity issue in this movie is low socio-economic status, more specifically, homelessness. The secondary diversity issues in this film include immigration, poverty, religion and faith, women’s issues, and drug addiction – all of which are common themes amongst America’s homeless population. Homelessness is lowest possible socio-economic status and “…is a byproduct of poverty”, according to our course textbook (BOR, p. 53). I was shocked to learn that there are currently more than 1.2 million homeless children in America (BOR, p. 53). To think about their physical and emotional suffering is unbearable to me. The homeless, though perhaps suffering the most due to lack of shelter from the elements, are not the only American’s affected by poverty. Over 18.8 million people are currently living below the poverty line in the United States (BOR, p. 53).

This movie showcases a variety of struggles in the daily reality of the homeless. In the opening scene, one of the main characters, Tahir, an illegal Nigerian refugee is robbed of all his belongings when a group of other homeless people steal his possessions while he is out begging for change. The code that the homeless live by, as explained through dialogue in the movie, calls for individuals to respect the ownership of one another’s belongings, but because Tahir is an illegal immigrant, his homeless peers betrayed him. Hannah, the other main character, sits on the street with a cardboard sign that reads, “I used to be somebody”. Once the wife of a successful surgeon, her life fell apart when her husband was killed in a terrorist attack. Heroin became the only relief from her emotional pain and she ran away from her previous life, leaving her child behind. Tahir and Hannah meet when she is contemplating suicide on a bridge – he stops her and slowly they become inseparable friends and eventually lovers. Tahir and Hannah take on life’s challenges together and he helps her become sober, but each time they make a small stride forward they are forced to take ten steps back. Tahir becomes ill during the winter and since he does not have health insurance he is treated poorly by hospitals. Tahir is kicked out of homeless shelters because his illness (pneumonia) causes him to cough constantly, which is disruptive to others staying there. Forced back out on the streets with no place to go and no money for the medicine to treat his illness, Hannah secretly makes the decision to sell her body to pay for his medications.

Though I personally have never been homeless, I have seen the devastating effects of homelessness up close. I lived in Baltimore, Maryland for three years and saw homeless individuals on a daily basis. At every stop light, “panhandlers” and “vagrants” as they were called there, approached vehicles asking for money and food. Sometimes it would affect me so much emotionally that I would drive ten minutes out of my way just to avoid areas where I knew I would have to interact with the homeless. My avoidance of them was not because they hassled me, but because emotionally I could not bear to see their struggle and not be able to help. Their situation made me feel helpless, so it was easier to avoid it. To make matters more complicated, I quickly learned that many of the homeless individuals would use the money to buy drugs rather than food and which meant that my heartfelt desire to help them by giving them money might actually contribute to their addiction. Eventually, I decided to make goody bags to keep in my car filled with granola bars, bottled water, and hygiene products. In this way I was able to give something to those in need without causing them unintentional harm. Those who truly needed food gladly accepted my goody bags, and because of that I was able to come some sort of inner peace with the situation.

Because of the stigma attached to homelessness, there are not nearly enough constructive conversations happening about this “inconvenient” topic. As I mentioned before, avoiding the topic of homelessness is easier than addressing it, which leads to a whole bunch of nothing. It is often assumed that homelessness is a result of laziness or a failure to care enough to succeed in life. This movie demonstrates poignantly that although an individual’s actions may or may not cause them to become homeless, the social system in America is currently designed to force them further into poverty rather than help pull them out of it. We need more government funded programs to assist homeless individuals in breaking the cycle of extreme poverty and we need more government assistance for non-profit organizations that are trying to help. A lack of resources, opportunities, and compassion appear to be the main roadblocks to solving the crisis of homelessness in America. This movie opened my eyes to the fact that good and honest people can fall victim to bad luck, heartbreak, and loss; which can lead them to a life on the streets. More than ever I am reminded that each human being has a story that we know nothing about.

This example paper is 894 words. Your paper must be between 600 and 900 words. This example paper meets all of the rubric criteria and demonstrates a high level of critical thinking.


Thompson, A., & Cuseo, J. (2014). Diversity & the college experience: Research based strategies for appreciating human differences (2nd ed.) (T. Passmore, Ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall- Hunt Publishing Company.

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