October 2, 2009

Road to Recovery: SOME captures success on video

[Another post from our new intern, Liz Whitehurst. —ed]

Last week, I blogged about the Invisible People project, which brings “the face and voice” of homelessness to the web. Locally, SOME’s “Success Stories” show us the powerful stories of DC residents who are moving out of poverty.

“My thing was that I was gonna die shooting dope,” says Lenny Ferguson, looking straight ahead. “Without a doubt, that’s what I thought. I had no idea that I would ever be clean.”
But when Tracy Monson met Lenny, he was well-dressed, carrying his dry cleaning and an iced tea from Starbucks. “It was hard to imagine him ever being on the streets,” says Tracy, who is Manager of Special Events and Marketing at SOME.

Lenny’s was one of several stories filmed this spring as part of a story collection effort that began with interviews conducted in 2008 with 10 graduates of SOME’s addiction treatment program. That series of interviews was initiated by SOME’s addiction counselors and social workers, who were looking for ways to encourage SOME’s clients who were dealing with addiction to enter treatment. “The goal was to have people who had gone through the process speak to them through the videos,” said Tracy.

SOME counselors engaged SOME’s recovery community in the process of screening the footage and editing it, using those who had gone through treatment to help decide what was most compelling.

The result is a series of five-minute videos, which now play in the waiting room of SOME’s Dining Room for the Homeless at 1st and O streets. “While folks are waiting, they can hear these people’s stories,” says Tracy.

In particular, Lenny’s story resonated with Tracy; her hope is that people like him will serve as an inspiration to others. “I wish more people could hear stories like that and really understand…that things can turn around completely,” says Tracy.

Lenny’s expression is unchanged as he describes his own transformation: “The old days I would wake up a lot of times with no money, sick, nose running, eyes running, couldn’t hardly stand up, didn’t know if I was gonna get enough money to go get some dope,” says Lenny. “Now I wake up, the birds sound good, the sky is beautiful, everything around me is beautiful.”

More recently, filmmaker Thom Wolf shared the experiences of formerly homeless families through interviews filmed at SOME’s Zagami House. On the SOME website, Letitia’s story is featured alongside Flash presentations that provide a virtual tour of the building and trace its transformation from an abandoned shell to a fully-renovated, 12-unit apartment complex.

Looking forward, Tracy wants to use video to reach a different audience: “We’ll work with the advocacy department to capture stories, both that are inspiring but also that help us to affect change in the city by having people speak to the challenges that they face and the things that are needed to help people move people out of poverty.”

Liz Whitehurst

1 comment:

shorn said...

Lenny Ferguson was also an extern in BFC’s Rep Payee Program through the SOME Center for Employment Training during the spring and summer of 2007. He was one of the most dependable and hardworking externs we’ve had in collaboration with SOME. - Susanne, Rep Payee Program Manager