Jendo Shabo and Stiven Agoubi feel good about the ability of their 30-second ads to make you cry.
Youth homelessness is ugly and the two local video producers, in partnership the Windsor Youth Centre, hope by stirring up emotions, it will spur action to address a problem too easily ignored.
“We showed it to a few people and they cried,” said Shabo of the first ad highlighting the most common cause of youth homelessness — parental abuse. “We knew it worked then.”
The two St. Clair College graduates, who co-founded the video production company MoonJump, will produce 13 ads for the Windsor Youth Centre. The videos will be released the first of each month for viewing on YouTube, at area cinemas and on TV.
They’ll touch on a range of topics from suicide/self-harm to the brutality of street life to the rejection endured by some in the LGBTQ+ community.
The first of the series is a dark, moody and intense clip that features little dialogue.
The ad shows a teenaged student seeking sanctuary in his bedroom while an adult male is pounding on the locked door to get in. Despite putting on his headphones, there’s no escaping the banging and screaming that triggers flashbacks to being trapped in his closet receiving the physical beating he knows awaits him once that locked door gives way.
“The truth is, young people end up on the streets and young people are homeless because of the adults in their lives,” said Tamara Kowalska, executive director of the Windsor Youth Centre.
“It is not youth that create their own homelessness, it’s us adults who have created situations that make young people feel unsafe,” she said, adding those youth are “not provided what they need to become healthy productive adults.”
Kowalska said the inspiration for sharing the gritty truth and series of video ads came in the summer from a young woman who had written LISTEN above her signature on the sign-in sheet at the Windsor Youth Centre. Before Kowalska could get her full story, however, death took another one off Windsor’s streets only days later.
“It is unacceptable,” said Kowalska, who said about 60 youths visit the WYC daily.
“Youth homelessness is an urgent crisis and it requires an immediate response. We’re trying to step up the response with this campaign.”
With the series of ads, Kowalska is hoping to give youth a voice and to spur the community to listen and to act through financial support, volunteering and pressuring government agencies.
The WYC receives no government funding and is entirely run through donations, sponsorships and volunteers. Motor City Credit Union, Ground Effects and CUPE Local 543 are helping support the video project.
Shabo and Agoubi compiled their list of topics to be covered in the series after sitting down to talk with several homeless youth, retaining one of them as a consultant on the project.
Agoubi said doing the series has been a surprising eye-opener for him.
“It’s made me look at the city differently,” Agoubi said. “I was just blind to how much of this is going on.”
The ads, which use actors to portray the stories local youth have shared, also aim to bust the myths surrounding life on the streets.
The next video will deal with the stories of homeless youth having pets because the animals are a source of affection they can’t get from anybody else.
“Tamara told us of a story of a youth in that situation who would feed his dog before he fed himself,” Agoubi said. “I’ve seen that same situation myself, driving around the streets.”