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Student documentary, Homeless in Humboldt: In the time of COVID-19, debuts

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Humboldt State students Gabe Kim, Valentina Dimas, Rachel Marty, and Skylar Gaven have released the film they’ve worked on since September of 2020. The multi-episode documentary follows the lives of Humboldt-area homeless men and women. The first episode was released Nov. 26.

The pandemic created challenges for everyone. It harshly impacted unhoused communities as the nation was ill-prepared for a public health crisis at this scale. With learning opportunities and internships inhibited by the pandemic, students found their own opportunities. Through their lens, they were able to find compassion and perspective by engaging with the unhoused community in Humboldt. Gabe Kim worked as the project director and spearheaded the effort.

“We often see people begging on the street or curled up in a ball and we just walk by and don’t give it much thought, but just stopping and smelling the roses, it’s really valuable,” Kim said.

Initially, the time frame for production was undefined. The students became more invested and worked on the project through breaks. Through the pandemic, it was a challenge to just stay afloat, let alone make a documentary. Journalism professor Vicky Sama advised the students through the process.

“You can’t do a documentary about homelessness by using Zoom,” Sama said. “The students had the extra challenge of trying to find subjects for the documentary while taking extra safety precautions so that they could also be on the streets and see the lived experiences of the homeless so they could tell the true stories.”

The learning opportunities from making a documentary helped to prepare students for a career in a tangible way. They engaged with their community and built trust with individuals to create a powerful documentary. The student showed compassion and effort for the communities they are trying to uplift. Rachel Marty worked on the project as a videographer and producer and described it as an eye-opening experience.

“Homelessness isn’t something most of us think about every day, but for some, it is a constant reality,” Marty said. “This project has been a chance to rebuild empathy and humanity in our community. This all starts with an understanding.”

Journalism major Skylar Gaven, who worked as an editor, wants to show the public what homelessness in Humboldt county is like.

“These are real people and I think that this whole process has been a great educational experience,” Gaven said. “They’re sharing their story, which is honestly very important because this could relate to any other homeless individual’s life. They’ve shown so much of what homelessness is like up here, and perhaps we can change the perspective of how people think of homelessness.”

More information about the project and the first episode can be found on their website.

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