VILLANOVA, Pa. – During the fall of 2010, Stephanie Sena, a history professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University, taught a course that examined social justice and issues of homelessness. Inspired by her students’ determination to make a difference, Sena proposed a special project which would challenge her students and others around Philadelphia to take on the fight against homelessness in the city. The result of that project was the Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia (SREHUP) – an entirely student-run homeless shelter – legally recognized as a non-profit organization in October 2011. This project could not have come at a more vital time, as Ridge Center, Philadelphia’s largest emergency housing unit, announced (in spring 2011) its plans to close at the end of the year.
“All of Us Home,” a short film written, directed and produced by a social justice documentary class in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University, highlights the work performed by SREHUP in order to bring attention to the ongoing problem of homelessness in Philadelphia. Sponsored by Villanova’s Department of Communication and the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society, “All of Us Home” takes a look at the work of the student volunteers and their positive relationship with the guests at SREHIP. In the process, it explores the roots of homelessness such as extreme poverty, drug and alcohol addiction and a lack of quality education. The first screening of the documentary took place at 9 p.m., Saturday, May 4, 2013 in the Connelly Center Cinema on Villanova’s Main Campus.
Since its debut in 2013, “All of Us Home” has been featured at multiple film festivals and conferences across the country, including the Peace on Earth Film Festival (Chicago, IL), West Chester Film Festival (West Chester, PA), and the National Youth Hostile Conference.
Swerve Studios , the production company name the students in the class adopted for this project, worked for 15 weeks on location at SREHUP and in the classroom, filming, conducting interviews, writing and editing. The group plans to utilize the documentary as a fundraising vehicle for SREHUP.
“The goal of the documentary is to change the public’s perception of homelessness by putting names and non-stereotypical faces to the social condition,” said Hannah Ishida, public relations director for the film. “We hope the movie shines a light on an injustice in our society and will cause people to act.”
“All of Us Home” shares the stories of four 2013 SREHUP residents – Jason Ford, Larry Wax, Frank “Franco” Charmichael and Steve Johnson – as well as Pete Fuller, a security guard at SREHUP who was once homeless. Also highlighted in the documentary are the student volunteers, who spend their evenings at the shelter serving dinner and providing company to the residents.
Since the founding of SREHUP and Villanova’s campus volunteer chapter two years ago, the organization has launched chapters at Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and Swarthmore College. The five chapters have engaged over 300 student volunteers in the work of housing and serving up to 70 guests a night. To learn more about SREHUP, click here.
About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.