The Veterans Memorial Building hosted a screening of documentary filmmaker Brandon Birtell’s Shelter. The sold-out screening which was a continuation of a July 13 public memorial for the 17 Santa Barbara homeless people who have died in 2009 – included the silent auction of artist Morris Bear Squire’s sculpture, which was revealed at the memorial.
The July 24 event echoed sentiments from the memorial, with Reverend Teena Grant emphasizing the unusually high number of homeless who have died and calling them “precious members of our community.” Bob Ballard, executive director of Hearts of Fire, performed two songs about the homeless situation. Following suit with the memorial, Grant and Reverend Mark Asman read aloud the names of the homeless who have died this year along with the locations and dates of their deaths.
Actor and Santa Barbaran Paul Walker, who produced Shelter, made a quick appearance to help introduce it. Walker apologized for Birtell’s absence and shot a quick video of the audience saying “Hi Brandon” to send to him. Shelter follows the lives of four homeless individuals living in Santa Barbara and emphasizes the scarcity of resources available to them, especially following the gentrification of area residential hotels, which formerly catered to low-income individuals. Now, many people are left to fight for spaces at homeless shelters such as Casa Esperanza. The film also addressed issues of dual-diagnosis, violence against the homeless, and emerging low-income housing projects. Two of the film’s stars partners and fiancees Jane Makrianes and Kathy Maxwell acknowledged the importance of the subject matter, but felt disenfranchised at the same time. “We got nothing for the movie, not even a cup of coffee,” Maxwell said.
Squire’s sculpture donated by the artist as the event’s primary fundraising tool for Casa Esperanza raised $8,000 from the winning bidder, philanthropist Sara Miller-McCune. Casa Esperanza encourages anyone interested in donating time or resources to visit its website or call (805) 884-0173.