Documentarians, independent and Hollywood-backed alike, have for decades used the stories of LGBT people and their families to grow acceptance for the LGBT community. And while that visibility has helped advance support for marriage equality and curb anti-LGBT bullying in schools, few films, if any, have zeroed in on the issue of family rejection like The Road Home, a project funded by Ford and Arcus to raise visibility about homeless LGBT youth.
The film is part of Ford’s long-term strategy to use the media to increase support for LGBT human rights. The Road Home follows five LGBT young people from different backgrounds, origins, and genders, as they try make their way on the mean and unforgiving streets of New York City without the financial or emotional support of their families.
“In an era of increasing openness regarding LGBT issues, where marriage equality is making strides and anti-gay bullying is publicly shamed, kids are coming out to their parents younger and younger,” said the film’s director and writer Calvin Skaggs. “But social trends don’t translate into all households equally, and LGBT kids are often getting kicked out into the streets long before they’ve developed the skills to survive on their own.”
The 90-minute film deals with the emotional hardships of LGBT teens being rejected by their families and turning to centers like the Ali Forney Center, also a Ford Foundation-grantee dedicated to providing support for homeless LGBTQ youth.
Since 1980, Ford has supported independent filmmakers who address important social justice issues. Through its film and digital storytelling initiative, JustFilms, the Ford Foundation has expanded the community of independent documentarians and helped filmmakers craft stories that build audiences across platforms. The foundation is also behind countless public education campaigns to end the anti-LGBT stigma here in the United States.
Now, with its $100,000 grant to Lumiere Productions, the Ford Foundation is bringing the stories of LGBT homeless youth, most of whom are LGBT youth of color, front and center. The Ford grant comes on top of a $100,000 grant that the Arcus Foundation made last year (to Film Forum) to support The Road Home.
According to a study by the Williams Institute, 40 percent of homeless youth in American identify as LGBT and about 30 percent use housing-related services such as emergency shelter and transitional living programs. The reason those numbers are so high? Most said they ran away (46 percent) or were forced out by their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (43 percent). The third leading cause for the high number of LGBT homeless youth was because of physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home (32 percent).