“Homeless in Huntsville” is a documentary that explores what life is like for the homeless in Huntsville, Alabama. Former Navy SEAL Brett Jones and college professor Chakri Deverapalli set out on a four-day journey to experience life on the streets with only few dollars to their names. Here is what Brett had to say about his role in the documentary and how it opened his eyes to the reality homeless face everyday.
I’ve worked so hard to keep my business afloat, being an honest husband, and raising a son whose smile and laughter is a constant reward to the gift of fatherhood. Losing all that to the hands of addiction, selfishness, mental instability, or just bad luck is something I must come to terms with. To truly understand loss, one must let go of everything they love. Watch it vanish from the present, only to become an aching memory of regret.
To truly understand and appreciate the experience of being homeless, I must believe in that reality, as painful as it is. As a Navy SEAL, I can relate to the drenched nightmares and mood swings associated with post traumatic stress disorder and the veiled reprieve alcohol brings. A colleague of mine once lost everything to a gambling addiction. After countless conversations, I began to understand his slow and steady decay into that compulsion.
Chakri Deverapalli came from India on scholarship. His road to becoming a successful entrepreneur, and engineer teaching at UAH is the epitome of the American dream. Before the notion of creating a documentary, Chakri came up with the idea of us living like homeless people for our own awareness. This stemmed from a personal experience. As a young man, when he first got off the bus in Alabama nobody picked him up or met him at the bus station. Abruptly, homelessness became conceivable.
His original idea is still the driving force behind the project, and that is to understand the struggles of our homeless population and what organizations and services are available to them. The fact that it developed into a documentary just means that we can now share that experience with people outside of our leadership group.
This is how I became Brian and Chakri became Sam. I’m a homeless vet suffering from PTSD and a gambling addiction. My friend Sam and I just got to Huntsville this week. On our way from Chicago, we were robbed. We have no form of identification, phones, or food. We have a back pack, sleeping bag, and five dollars in our pocket. For the next four days, this is our reality.
Through the talents of local visionary filmmaker Isaiah Williams, let us take you on a journey into existence, humanity, and empathy.” – Brett Jones