VILLANOVA, Pa. – Each year, over two million youth in the United States face a period of homelessness. By the same token, between six and eight million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, 2.7 million of which are euthanized due to lack of adoption. These staggering numbers only begin to tell the story of homelessness in the United States. A Villanova University student documentary wants to change the story’s final chapter.
“Heel’d,” a short documentary written, filmed and produced by a social justice documentary class in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova, tells the story of a local Philadelphia nonprofit, Hand2Paw, and its mission to bring together homeless youth and homeless animals. The film focuses on a Hand2Paw partnership between Covenant House, the largest privately funded homeless agency in America, and the Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA). At the center of the story is Jerome Maynard, a 21-year-old Covenant House resident participating in the Hand2Paw program. Volunteer work with Hand2Paw allowed Maynard to develop the skills necessary to care for sheltered animals, and eventually led to a full-time position with the PSPCA.
Founded in 2009 by University of Pennsylvania alumna Rachel Cohen, Hand2Paw provides homeless youth the chance to gain experience and build skills though volunteer work in animal shelters. Through their various service opportunities, Hand2Paw teaches the rituals of the working world to teens and young people transitioning into adult life. Hand2Paw’s programs are made possible by partnerships between social service agencies and shelters serving homeless animals.
“Hand2Paw is a unique organization, giving homeless youth and homeless animals the opportunity to help one another,” said Ellie Wright, the film’s director of public relations and social media. “Through weekly sessions between Covenant House residents and the PSPCA animals, Jerome and others like him have been able to experience unconditional love and care on a level previously unknown to them.”
The students in the class worked for 17 weeks on location at Covenant House, the PSPCA and in the classroom, filming, conducting interviews, writing and editing. The group plans to utilize the documentary as a vehicle to raise awareness about homelessness, as well as to encourage more young people to volunteer.
The first public screening of “Heel’d” will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13 in the Connelly Center Cinema on Villanova’s Main Campus.
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.