In a recent post we talked about the ethical questions raised by the At Home study. It seems only fair that we now turn the lens on ourselves and ask some of the same questions.
As Toronto filmmaker, Manfred Becker says, “there are moral questions raised at every point in this project, including the filmmaking process. What’s my moral position making money off of people who live in such precarious situations?”
Mark modelling at a CAMH fundraiser in 2011
Mark Wroblewski, the participant in the Here At Home film, Honestly Painful, grew up in a small town in Poland when the Iron Curtain was still firmly in place. While studying for a Polish language teaching degree at Warsaw University, Wroblewski participated in an exchange program in France. There he made a momentous decision. Nearly 30 years later, he remembers the precise date of his defection to the West – February 23, 1983. It would be many years before he could return to his native country.
After traveling throughout Europe and North America he ended up in Toronto where he worked at a series of odd-jobs, doing everything from fast-food prep to data-entry. He also managed to sponsor several members of his family for immigration to Canada. But in 2004, his mental health took a turn for the worse, a situation that eventually led to homelessness and time spent at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
All his life Wroblewski has nursed a desire to be in showbiz. In the 1980s he tried to get his foot in the door by working for the Church of Scientology in L.A. but this strategy never panned out. Years later he enrolled in a modelling school in Scarborough, Ontario, but that never went anywhere either. “The secret to my success”, he notes with ironic delight, , “is that I never slept with anybody who could further my career.” In 2011, he took a turn on the catwalk at a CAMH event and received a standing ovation. You can see why – he’s clearly in his element.
A still from Here At Home film, "Honestly Painful"
In the Here At Home film Honestly Painful, Mark Wroblewski remembers the elation he felt when he learned he was going to be housed. But his happiness has since been tempered by anxiety about what happens when the study ends. “I wish this program could continue for another ten, twenty years,” he says, “because it’s giving me a secure home.”
His caseworker, Bouchra Arbach tries to comfort him by suggesting that he concentrate on his present reality rather than worry about the future. But later she confides in a voice-over, “Those expressions of anxiety are very real. I don’t know where the project is heading. I don’t know whether the funding will be renewed. What I do know is they [the participants] have housing today.”
A still from Here At Home film, "The Wound Inside"
1. The experiment: Sometimes it’s referred to as a study, sometimes a “national research demonstration project,” sometimes a, “randomized controlled trial.” We just like to call it, “the experiment.”
2. The big idea: find the best way to help people who are homeless and have mental illness. (more…)
A still from Here At Home film, "A Model Person"
Yvonne Robertson’s excellent article posted on Open File today, looks into homelessness in Vancouver and the question of what happens when the At Home study ends in 2013. She focuses on the Bosman Hotel project and Lynne Stopkewich‘s Here At Home film, “A Model Person,” gets a mention.
What’s unique about the Bosman Hotel is it gives participants the chance to form consistent relationships with doctors and police officers. Just having this presence addressing issues such as addiction helps stabilize behaviours, according to Evans. But as the study ends in 2013, the fate of the Bosman Hotel hangs in the balance. If it has to shut down next year, at least 100 housed participants are back on the streets.