Director, Office of the Americas
Executive Director, Office of the Americas
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Douglas G. Shermer
Homeless to Homeowner opens with a visit to a homeless camp in Sacramento as Mo Mohanna leads a group of volunteers bringing buckets of chicken dinners. The camera is running as people eat and several speak emotionally about how they came to be homeless due to unemployment, substance abuse, and/or medical issues. “Give someone a fish and they will eat for a day,” I thought as I watched.
But the documentary’s scene soon shifts to the North C Street Village where the Mohanna Foundation has partnered with other social service agencies to teach people to “fish” for the rest of their lives. A listing of the agencies provides a hint of what is happening there. Loaves and Fishes provides 600 – 800 meals per day. Clean and Sober helps those with drug and alcohol issues. Save Haven Ministries provides religious services. Also, there is a shelter dedicated to homeless women and children.
Mohanna introduces us to the Women’s Empowerment program and is present to help celebrate the 1,000th graduate. It is a place where women learn job skills, job search and interview skills, and receive help addressing drug, alcohol, and/or domestic abuse issues that had interfered with their prior employment experiences. All this while also providing day care for their children.
During the graduation ceremony several of the women talk about their growth during the program and how their life has been transformed. Graduates have become employed and reorganized their lives. Some have become homeowners.
An Iranian-American, Mohanna tells his own story of growing up in a home with alcoholics, working his way through college as a janitor, and beginning his career as a real estate developer. Today he uses his wealth and influence to lead efforts to improve his community. He becomes emotional when he talks about the plight of the homeless and the need of the business community to become part of the solution while challenging viewers to do the same in their hometowns.
Homeless to Homeowner is an inspirational film about successful programs to ameliorate the problems of homelessness and a guide to what is possible in other cities.