Flagstaff documentary addresses homelessness

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A 14-minute documentary on homelessness, “The Man in the Dog Park,” uses Flagstaff residents to tell a story of compassion. The film is based on Cathy Small’s book, “The Man in the Dog Park: Coming Up Close to Homelessness.”

The film asks individuals to consider the issues from a compassionate viewpoint by introducing viewers to people who live in the shelters or on the streets.

The story was spurred by a personal relationship with a homeless man, Ross, who became one of Small’s coauthors. Over seven years, Small and her coauthors met and interviewed people living in the woods, on the streets and in their cars. In the book and in the movie, Small tells their stories of what it means to be homeless and what it takes for the unhoused to live.

An intimate look at homelessness

Small’s film travels into the places many of the homeless frequent, including a community shelter, a day labor agency, a panhandling corner, a pawn shop and a U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office. The documentary also addresses the stigma of being unhoused.

Through personal stories, viewers can witness the obstacles faced by the homeless. The film also shows the ingenuity it takes to negotiate life without a home. Additionally, the film points to the ways our own cultural assumptions and blind spots contribute to the suffering homeless people face.

At the same time, we see how our own sense of connection and compassion can bring greater humanity to the homeless.

The documentary is free for all to watch. Small hopes people everywhere will watch it and discuss it. And she hopes it will facilitate deeper conversations about the themes of homelessness.

You can find out more by visiting the website here.

About Cathy Small

Cathy A. Small, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University. Small lives and writes in Flagstaff. Furthermore, she offers free Buddhist meditation talks and classes to community members as well as inmates at the county jail.

She is author of two editions of “Voyages: From Tongan Villages to American Suburbs” (Cornell U. Press), chronicling an epoch multi-generation story of international migration over a thirty-year period.

In an attempt to better understand her students’ experiences, Small went back to school as a freshman student, moving out of her home and into a dormitory. She said the experience proved transformative. Under the pen name Rebekah Nathan, Small wrote the book “My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student” (Penguin Press) to share what she learned.

Cathy A. Small, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University

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