After more than four years of research and a year of filming, Lander University graduate David Moody is nearing the completion of a new film entitled "The Hidden Homeless."
The 1- to 1½-hour documentary, set for release in September 2017, was financed by Moody at a cost of $30,000-$45,000 - and chronicles what he calls "an entire segment of the homeless population which goes unnoticed."
"In my research, I found some disturbing trends and information," Moody said. "For example, almost every school district has homeless children in the classrooms, but because their parents keep that fact hidden, most people don't know about it."
He added that keeping their homelessness a secret is intentional because of their distrust of agencies and government programs that ostensibly exist to help them.
"I have often found women with school-age children sleeping in their cars at the edge of parking lots in shopping centers," Moody said. "These moms won't sign up for government assistance because they worry that the Department of Social Services will take their kids away once it's discovered that the family doesn't have an address. That's one of the issues in this documentary that I want to show - and help change."
Moody's venture began in 2013 after a random call to The United Way in Pickens County, S.C.
Working then as a newspaper journalist, he intended to get just another story for the week, but instead came away with the seed for a new look at homelessness.
"I could have just shrugged and walked away," he said. "But the more I got into the subject, the more I found that there wasn't a whole lot addressing the problem. That's when I began to think of doing a film, a documentary, that could receive more attention and hopefully be used to lead to a workable solution."
Along the way, Moody has secured individual allies and backers for his project, including The Dream Center in Pickens County, one of the first groups there to address housing for homeless people and families.
"We are a faith-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit that offers assistance to homeless families," said Michael Barnes, Director of The Dream Center. "I'm hoping that David's documentary will show that homelessness and poverty can be overcome with proper encouragement, instruction and relationships."
Julie Capaldi, President of United Way of Pickens County, added, "It has been very hard to measure homelessness in Pickens County because up until now, we have had no shelters. So I hope this documentary will lead to a greater awareness that homelessness can happen to anyone."
To strengthen his documentary and its desired outcome, Moody has also created a non-profit program called A Hand Up Foundation. Having been approved this summer for 501(c)(3) status, this program will be set up to offer tutoring/mentoring, continuing education and job skills training, transportation assistance, counseling, and classes on life skills development.
"My intention with A Hand Up Foundation is to bring more of a spotlight on the issue of homelessness and help drive funding to achieve the goals for establishing or supporting programs," Moody said. "And the film is a part of this foundation."
Once finished, Moody is looking to distribute "The Hidden Homeless" to churches, civic groups, community and business leaders, and all possible outreach programs, such as The United Way and The Dream Center.
What happens after that, he said, will be up to the people needing assistance and those offering it.
"The greater the distribution, the greater the impact," Moody said. "The wider we can spread the word, the likelihood of prompting others to action becomes greater."