GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — The first day Jason Orr walked down Division Avenue to start his new job at Dégagé Ministries nearly a year ago, he paid attention to how people experiencing homelessness were treated.
"I noticed that people are walking past other human beings and not speaking and not acknowledging them. So, one thing that I do is when I walk down the street, I'm giving them fist bumps. I'm calling out people by name," Orr said.
Treating people with dignity and respect is just a start. Orr says everyone has a role to play in finding solutions to homelessness in Grand Rapids. He hopes an ongoing film series called "Unhoused" will be a way to start conversations that will lead to change.
The film series began on June 22 with the showing of a documentary that focused on a handful of people from Cincinnati. The purpose of that event was to explain the causes of homelessness.
"That can be very hard conversation to have, because there are so many different causes," Orr said.
"We had great engagement. We had a lot of great questions, and I think it really just kind of struck a chord, and that's what we want to do. That's the whole reason behind this three-part film series is to connect, to engage and to get people to the point where they feel like they need to do something. And you do. Get involved."
The second event in the series will take place Wednesday, July 20 at 6 p.m. at the Wealthy Theater located at 1130 Wealthy Street SE. The movie being shown is a 2018 featured film called The Public, directed by Emilio Estevez. Online registration is required to attend.
"We would love for the community to come out, be a part and get involved and really just learn to understand," Orr said.
The film series wraps up August 10 at Dégagé Ministries for a celebration focused on the solutions to homelessness and those who help find those solutions.
"We are going to block off Sheldon and Cherry right behind our new community center, and we're going to have a block party. We're going to celebrate all of the organizations that are working with us towards solutions to this issue," Orr said.
"Homelessness is something that anyone can impact in a positive way. And we're doing this film series because we want the community of West Michigan to be a part of the solution."
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