Chicago Film ‘I Have a Name' Strives to Give a Voice to Those Experiencing Homelessness

The film, “I Have a Name” showcases the work of a Chicago nonprofit working on the front lines  to help the city’s homelessness.

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A Chicago filmmaker and an organization dedicated to helping those experiencing homeless have teamed up to create a film to put "a respectful face on the homeless."

The documentary, which was set to premiere Thursday evening, was produced by filmmaker Lucia Mauro with the assistance of the Chicago Help Initiative.

“So yes, we see a cup shaking or we see a sign that says homeless, we see a cart filled with belongings," Mauro said. "But then, I wanted to open up the film so that we [see]... those individuals who clearly have a name. They have a name, they have thoughts they have emotions."

Doug Fraser, executive director of the Chicago Help Initiative, said Mauro "effectively captured the concept of making people who are symbols or stereotypes into people, and connecting people together.”

Thanks to the Chicago Help Initiative's extensive list of partners, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the organization to pivot, the nonprofit was able to go from serving 200 meals a week at Catholic Charities to 3,500 bagged meals.

"That’s one of the reasons we were able to pivot from doing the regular community meals to doing bagged meals and deliveries at such a volume," Fraser explained. "Because we had made connections with so many people, and so many people were connected to us, that everyone was willing to pitch in. It shows you can do small things to make a big difference."

Jacqueline Hayes is a successful real estate broker who decided to take matters into her own hands when, in 1999, the city closed off lower Wacker Drive to the homeless. She founded Chicago Help Initiative, and served her first community meal in March 2001.

"I never understood who benefited the most, the guests or the volunteers, because it’s so powerful to help someone else and know that you mean something in their life," Hayes said. "We are really proud of that.”

Another virtual screening of the film is planned for 7 p.m. on Dec. 9.

Individual tickets are $25, with a portion benefiting the Chicago Help Initiative. More information, including how to RSVP, is available here.

"I knew right from the beginning that I wanted to show... the cross nourishing between the guests and the volunteers," Mauro said. "How they really change each other’s lives in the most positive and uplifting way. “

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