The Homestretch Reaches Rural Communities

This May, three rural communities in West Michigan created powerful events and actions to build local awareness and understanding of homeless youth and foster care in their own areas. Tammy Carey, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Oceana County, remarked that people often think of youth homelessness as an urban crisis, and that she watched as audience members were shocked to learn that this was an issue facing rural communities as well. The Homestretch team was deeply inspired by how each of these rural communities used the film as a catalyst for opening meaningful discussions, and for taking action for local homeless youth.


Saugatuck students respond to The Homestretch with their own short film about youth in their area - and it's AWESOME!

We were absolutely blown away when we learned how a group of young people responded to a community screening of The Homestretch in Saugatuck, MI. Whitney Valentine, Education and Exhibit Coordinator for the Saugatuck Center for the Arts partnered with students of “The Justice Team” and their Social Studies Teacher, John Green, to create a community response to the issue of homeless youth in their community. This dynamic team connected with local service organizations Bethany Christian Services and Michigan Youth Opportunity Initiative to make the film and build awareness and support. 

From left to right:  Ashton Greene, Jessica Francis, Rita Maslanka, Madison Walston, Alex Segovia, Marena Tedaldi and Junior Ortiz.

From left to right:  Ashton Greene, Jessica Francis, Rita Maslanka, Madison Walston, Alex Segovia, Marena Tedaldi and Junior Ortiz.

We were so inspired by their response that we are taking their powerful film on the road with The Homestretch Impact Campaign in hopes of inspiring other youth-driven and community responses to the film. Huge congrats to the following folks for making Saugatuck’s response to the homeless youth crisis so powerful! Marena Tedaldi, Jessica Francis, Madison Walston, Alex Segovia, Rita Maslanka, Ashton Green, Saugatuck High School Class of 2015 and John Green, SHS Teacher.

Here is Saugatuck High School’s “Justice Team” and students involved with making the film.


Manistee raises funds for local youth service organizations at a screening of The Homestretch.

The local independent movie theater The Vogue brought The Homestretch to Manistee, MI for their documentary week in May. This free community screening raised $450 in donations for Safe Harbor and Staircase Youth Services. Travis Alden, the Vogue’s Executive Director, coordinated with local social service agencies for a panel discussion following the film. “This was perfect timing to screen the film." said Mr. Alden, "To have this independent movie theater be able to partner with Staircase Youth Services and Safe Harbor for this event – two organizations that serve the homeless population of our community on a daily basis – is something I'm very proud of."

Oceana County "The Homestretch” Day

"The most important impact from the film screening is that it started an actual dialogue around the question 'What is happening in our community?'" - Kittie Tuinistra, Oceana County.

During the day, The Youth Action Committee of the Foundation for Oceana County presented the film to all area high school students in Oceana H.S. followed discussions with filmmaker Kirsten Kelly. Students were asked to examine how they could take action within their community to support their peers who may be facing issues of homelessness or need additional support thru the foster care system. 

Later that night, there was a free community screening with panel discussion featuring community leaders Kittie Tuinstra of Oceana Home Partnership, Rebecca Flocker of Michigan Department of Human Services, Michelle Mattson the Hart Public Schools/Homeless Liaison and Penny Burillo of Oceana Hispanic Center, Norma Gonzalez, a Hart High School Senior and filmmaker Kirsten Kelly. The film opened the doors to bring together the local Homeless Liaison, who many people did not know existed, as well as folks who work with family services, foster care and homelessness. Audience members in Oceana County learned that in 2014, they had 574 homeless cases in their county of 25,000 people with a vast majority being single mothers with their children. They also learned that Oceana County has only three registered foster care homes and that children who need homes now have to leave the county and their home school districts when they go into a foster home. They put a call out for folks to sign up for more host homes and foster care homes.

Kittie Tuinstra, who works with the homeless population in Oceana County said “Rural communities often believe that homelessness is not a problem in small communities. I have received so much feedback after the film screening from folks saying that they had no idea how many people we have locally that are experiencing homelessness”. Tammy Carey from the Community Foundation for Oceana County said that, “This event gave us the opportunity as a community to come together and learn how this issue effects our community and start to address ways to build support to help youth at risk”.