EXCLUSIVE: The homeless in America — 2 million of them are children. Now entertainment mogul Russell Simmons, Jon Bon Jovi and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy are helping to shine a light on it through a new documentary called Lost In America. The film is directed by Rotimi Rainwater, a former homeless youth who spent three years traveling around the nation culling together stories from street kids who spoke to him in unbridled honesty.
Simmons is the executive producer on Lost In America and will appear in the film alongside Bon Jovi (who helps thousands with food and housing through his own JBJ Foundation and Soul Kitchen), Leahy and other members of Congress.
This comes as Emilio Estevez is also bringing attention to the homeless plight in America through his feature film The Public about how this nation’s public libraries have become homeless shelters. This was also a cause mounted by Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and the late Robin Williams as well as Aileen Getty through Getlove, which helps Los Angeles homeless find permanent housing.
“I don’t know how we allow 2 millions kids to be homeless in this country,” Simmons said. “It’s like we feel helpless against the tide … but if each one of us could help one person, then we could change the world.”
The documentary examines the homeless problem from all sides — that of the kids who tell their stories; the politicians who explain what is being done and what is not, and why; and those who run organizations and churches who are leading the charge on the ground to initiate change.
In fact, 40%-50% of homeless youth are the product of a broken foster care system. Foster kids are often turned out at age 18 with no skills and no mentors to help them through life, so it’s no wonder they become so hardened.
Rainwater is a writer-director and producer known for the film Sugar, which chronicled his own time on the street.
Mike C. Manning, one of the producers of this film, founded his company Chhibber Mann Productions three years ago to bring attention to social issues. “This film sort of fell into my lap through a friend who knew the director. Rotimi is a Native American who is now 45 but was homeless when he was 19. He came out of serving in the military to a mother who was in the hospital and had lost her home, so he ended up living on the street in Orlando,” said Manning. “This journey started out as an expose to create change and it turned into Rotimi’s own personal journey of dealing with the fact that he was homeless and that is what makes the documentary so special and so beautiful.”
Manning said every person on the team of this documentary “cares so much about the stories and are in it for all the right reasons — and that is to elevate the problem in the public so that we can all work to resolve it in this country.”
The documentary is also being produced by Brent C. Johnson (Abattoir). Tom DeSanto (Transformers, X-Men) is also an executive producer. DeSanto and Manning last paired on the award-winning documentary Kidnapped For Christ, which sold to Showtime in 2014 and was an important tool in the passing of the Protecting Youth from Institutional Abuse Act in California, a subject the film highlighted.
Other executive producers who are supporting Lost In America are Randy Sinquefield (Slash), Brian Wilkins via Link Entertainment (Hand Of God, All I See Is You), and Allen and Megan Camaisa from Risen Media.
The film’s sale is being handled by Kevin Iwashina at Preferred Content and Jay Cohen at Gersh.