real hope for real people

DOORWAYS TO DIGNITY is a feature-length documentary about the decade-long struggle by a group of homeless revolutionaries as they escape the oppression and poverty of the streets and begin the arduous process of building their own town from the ground up, a place they call “Dignity Village” where they intend to regain the hope and the dignity they deserve.

Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to FINISH this film will be launched Nov 14, 2011. Sign up for our newsletter or join us on FB/Twitter for more details. You will get fantastic gifts for every contribution to the film through Kickstarter, and you will be supporting a great cause to spread the word about all people's right to housing.

Thank you!


DOORWAYS TO DIGNITY is a classic American tale of a mistreated group of citizens fleeing persecution, and working together to achieve their dreams of founding a safe haven, a “micro-town” built on democracy and the fundamental drive for a place to belong. More than two centuries after the founding of this great nation, these new American visionaries just happen to be homeless.

DOORWAYS TO DIGNITY is a feature-length documentary that spans a decade at Dignity Village, a community of homeless people in Portland, Oregon that began as a loose collection of tents under a bridge, a bold attempt to escape the cruelties of survival on the streets. With no available shelter, and constantly harassed by police, this small group of homeless revolutionaries decided to take matters into their own hands and form their own micro-town, with typical American bootstrap independence. Two years later, Dignity Village became a registered non-profit; it continues to be run solely by homeless people as a self-governed, democratic community. Like any American city, Dignity Village has a council and a system of departments, from Trash and Sanitation, to Sustainable Enterprises, that work together to manage and develop the community. It is a transitional home for 60 individuals or couples (and pets) who live in single-room micro-houses built by the community themselves from recycled materials.

But their successes did not come easily. The film begins at the start of the new millennium, from the rain-filled gutters where homeless people are swept from the streets of downtown to a cluster of tents huddling in the shadow of rotting leaf-piles in a corner of the city’s compost yard, beneath the roar of jet engines from the airport next door. Rising up from the gutters of America, six homeless visionaries throw off the shackles of poverty and help each other reclaim their lives and homes. The film reveals the homeless community’s intense struggle to overcome prejudice and despair as they attempt to create a haven for homeless citizens to get back on their feet. Gaye, an elderly woman in a wheelchair, provides biting commentary as the young community suffers setbacks and celebrates successes. We follow the stories of a soft-spoken Rastafarian, a radical young preacher's son, a black Muslim former gang member, and a middle-aged couple who kick their addictions and fall in love. Shot in verité style, the film offers a glimpse of the human drama surrounding a handful of characters as they pursue their own American dream despite overwhelming obstacles.


Gaye Reyes
Christian former middle class homeowner

Jack Tafari
Rasta poet and writer and community organizer

Ibrahim Mubarak
Former gang member turned devout Muslim

JP Cupp
Atheist, young radical firebrand and preacher’s son

Timothy McCarthy
Gay Mormon with rural Oregon roots

Chrysler Chelle and Ross Bennett
Strong-willed survivors recovering from addiction

Film Crew

Wendy Kohn, co-director and producer
Since 1996, as President and co-founder of Kwamba Productions, Kohn has developed and produced over 80 social-issue media products on global financial literacy, poverty, gender, women's health and wildlife conservation, among other topics. Kwamba works exclusively with non-profit organizations to create advocacy tools and video-based social campaigns. Dr. Kohn has worked collaboratively with disenfranchised groups around the world to use media to engage in social issues in a global context that promotes human rights and positive social change. Wendy also directed and/or produced social issue feature documentaries, including A QUESTION OF FREEDOM (2004) and QUEENS OF HEART: COMMUNITY THERAPISTS IN DRAG (2006). She was the recipient of a 2011 Oregon Council for the Humanities grant.

Heather Mosher, co-director and DP/cinematographer
Since 2000, Mosher has been a leading partner at Kwamba, shifting the company towards a social issue focus. Heather received her PhD at Portland State University in Systems Science-Social/Community Psychology, and is currently a Research Associate at the Institute for Community Research in Hartford, CT. Her PhD research utilizes media to empower those in the margins, connecting people across diverse ethnicities, classes, and religions. Heather continues to find innovative ways to integrate social psychology, community-based research and media in addressing issues of poverty, homelessness, gender, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and sexuality. In addition to her community research and educational media production, she has also co-directed the feature documentary, A QUESTION OF FREEDOM (2004) and was director of photography on QUEENS OF HEART: COMMUNITY THERAPISTS IN DRAG (2006).

Sarah van Borek, assistant director, cinematographer
With a Masters Degree in Film and Television production from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and a Bachelor of Media Arts Degree from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design (Canada), Van Borek’s filmmaking experience spans across Africa and North America. Here work engages communities and empowers youth to produce innovative media for tackling complex global issues. She directed the short documentary XENOPHOBIA UNPLUGGED (2008), addressing xenophobic violence in South Africa and the role of musicians in bridging cross-cultural understanding, an official selection of CBC Radio Canada International’s online festival, Migr@tions (2008), and screened at numerous film festivals in 2009-09. She co-directed the feature documentary POSITIVE VOICES LEADING TOGETHER (2006), which explores the social determinants of health for HIV-positive Canadians leading change in their respective communities, presented at the Ontario Council for International Cooperation’s International Development Week (2008). She produced HmTV, a pilot music TV show by/for South African youth, and she directed the short documentary Kela Griots (2007) which aired on the Canadian television program, “” (2007). Van Borek currently offers a variety of video production services for Simon Fraser University and is a Teaching Assistant at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Greg Snider, editor
Greg Snider's filmmaking work includes editing THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN, winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Slamdance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award at the San Francisco Int'l Film Festival, 2005. THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN received US theatrical distribution and aired nationally on PBS' Independent Lens, 2006. Greg also edited the feature documentary PURVIS OF OVERTOWN, winner of the Best Documentary Award at the Florida Film Festival and the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Greg's directorial debut documentary, RIDIN' & RHYMIN', about cowgirl poet Georgie Sicking, won the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival's Big Sky Award and aired on Oregon and Wyoming PBS during 2006. Snider is currently editing the documentary features FACING THE STORM, A History of American Bison, for High Plains Films; and HOW TO DIE IN OREGON, about Oregon’s Death with Dignity law, for Clearcut Productions.

Deane Ogden, composer
Odgen is an award-winning film composer for over twenty feature films including THE SENSEI, DREAMS ON SPECT, IN THE EYES OF A KILLER, and THE WAY HOME directed by Lance Dreesen. Most recently, Deane’s music is featured in the Touchstone Pictures summer blockbuster SURROGATES, starring Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, and Ving Rhames. Deane has also written countless hours of music for hit network television, including orchestral themes for Michael Phelp’s record-breaking gold medal run during the 2008 Olympic Games, the most-viewed event in American television history. Ogden also composed music for Emmy-winning series Survivor, LAX, The Apprentice, Exploration with Richard Wiese, and The Wire on HBO. Deane is the founder of SCOREcast, the immensely popular internet podcast and webzine which focuses on the art and business of writing music for film and TV. He also authors the monthly column Music Industry Mash-Up.

About the Production

Filmmakers Kohn and Mosher have worked closely with the community since 2001, collecting more than 600 hours of footage, photos, and archival papers.

In the spirit of do-it-yourself independence and pride that typifies Dignity Village, the filmmakers gave a camcorder to the Village and taught them the basics of filmmaking, providing them with the tools to document their own journeys in reclaiming their lives. Villagers shot about 70 hours of video, and the filmmakers obtained roughly thirty hours of archival footage from local community organizers who covered events during the first six months of the group’s formation. The directors shot the majority of footage on professional DV cameras using a cinema-verité style, and interspersed this with the archival camcorder footage to create a gritty, grassroots film that draws viewers directly into the realities and struggles of this community. Organic street and village sounds woven in the music soundscape will bring viewers viscerally into the story.

The Need for this Film

As the economy remains stagnant and job losses continue to climb, now is the time for the film DOORWAYS TO DIGNITY to be told. In these anxious times, more and more people now stare directly at the face of homelessness, knowing they themselves may only be steps away.

But this is not just one more film on homelessness. DOORWAYS TO DIGNITY is about living the American dream of freedom, justice and democracy. It’s about a tiny group of citizens who demonstrate that some of the best solutions to society's most intractable problems can come from the bottom up. DOORWAYS TO DIGNITY is about the basic ideals of our nation, about citizens struggling to achieve success against all odds, and showing us that anything is possible with a little hope and a lot of determination.

The documentary dives deep into the conflict surrounding the creation and growth of Dignity Village, probing the reasons and results of this unique social experiment. The film is part of a broader social movement to promote community-based housing solutions that include participation by all citizens in the development of their nation.

In the wealthiest country in the world, several million people cannot afford housing for themselves or their families. Without shelter from the elements, homeless people do what any desperate person would do: find a blanket, a tarp, a bush, or a bridge, and try to get sleep and a measure of warmth. Yet, to perform this very act, even to survive, is considered “camping” which is a crime in most cities across the US. As a result, people who are left to sleep on the streets are forced to keep moving throughout the city all night or risk getting fined or sent to jail. Under these conditions, people lose hope as their efforts to better their condition is thwarted by an overburdened and demoralizing system of care. Everybody deserves the opportunity and freedom to survive and pursue their potential. Our local and national policies should reflect this fundament and historic American value.

This documentary and grassroots campaign is not about creating “tent cities” everywhere. It supports what is at the heart of tent cities: the struggle to reclaim lives and a home, a place with privacy and community, a sense of belonging and some control over their lives by having the opportunity and freedom to pursue their potential. The movement is about creating innovative solutions to homelessness that integrates top-down ideas with bottom-up humane and pragmatic practices.

Support the Film

Help make this movie and advance the human right to housing!

DOORWAYS TO DIGNITY is part of a broader social movement to promote community-based solutions for interim and long-term affordable housing. This campaign urges local and national governments to reclaim its long-standing commitment of human rights and civic participation as a guiding principle in the development, and change, of policies to end homelessness.

You can be part of the change. Donate to the complete the film through our
Kickstarter campaign (starts Nov 14!), host a house party or screen the trailer at your school or organization, and raise awareness about the right to safe, affordable housing for everyone. Thank you!

Fiscal sponsorship for DOORWAYS TO DIGNITY is provided by the International Documentary Association, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

**All donations are tax deductible.**

To contribute to this important project, checks can be made payable to IDA (International Documentary Association).
Very important: You MUST write “Doorways to Dignity” on the memo line of the check.

Mail checks to
International Documentary Association (or IDA)
Attention: Fiscal Sponsorship Coordinator
1201 West 5
th Street, Suite M320
Los Angeles, CA 90017


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