Impact: Dinner & A Movie

Oregon / Aug. 16, 2012 / by Gelb
Impact: Dinner & A Movie

Dinner & A Movie


"I don't have a TV and VCR in my back pack you know." Homelessness is a challenge that affects all areas of our nation, and all aspects of the community. For homeless youth in Portland, Dinner & A Movie offers a mentoring program for abused and dejected young people without a home.

Dinner & A Movie started after Executive Director, William Sharp, was making conversation with homeless youth in attendance after a cooking class. After seeing the effect the gesture of bringing in a TV and VCR had on the young people, using D&M as a launching point for a mentoring program made sense.

Sharp notes, "It very quickly became apparent that the majority of the youth in attendance had left homes where they were being physically, emotionally, and or sexually abused."

The simple act of "feeding the youth a meal was not going to make a lasting difference in their lives," so by expanding the scope of their organization to mentoring through the simple act of playing a movie enabled them to start to "show the youth their unique value and help them overcome the effects of the abuse they had suffered."

"[The homeless youth] truly believe that they are 'worthless', 'in the way', 'stupid', 'sex object,' etc. In order for them to move forward them must see past these lies and come to know that they are of unique value."

The organization was also keenly aware that many of the young women they interacted with were starting to have children of their own. 

"The stark reality that without intervention one third of abused individuals will turn out to abuse their children was the impetus for creating our Child & Family Development Program. The C&F program creates community for these families, provides for physical needs, teaches pre-school education and parenting skills."

Paul Riggs, a volunteer with Dinner and A Movie, says that the program, "provides something so unique in the mentoring for the youth. Whether it's taking them to help get their IDs, or having play group on Friday mornings in order to help show the homeless youth that are parents how to be parents, so that the cycle of abuse isn't just stopped, but it's spun around."

12.5% of all young people will leave home and become homeless, about half of which have left abusive situations. There exists an enormous number of challenges for homeless youth. 

"While living on the streets the youth are continually ignored, scorned and abused. This just feeds into the cycle of shame that comes with abuse," Sharp says. "They are often told to just go get a job. Many of them have no way to get ID, needed for applying for a job. They also do not have a place to get clean or have interview clothes. This reinforces the message they have heard that they are worthless."

Dinner & A Movie provides a place free from judgment, where genuine connections can take place and mentoring can thrive. Riggs highlights the determination of those who work at Dinner & A Movie, "The passion and love the staff and the volunteers have to show these kids that they are loved, that they have a unique worth, it's amazing to see how the kids take to being mentored, how trust can be formed from a kid who has never had anyone to trust."

What it all comes down to is how the young people react. "The best effect of our program is a sense of community that occurs. The staff, volunteers, youth and impoverished families truly come to care about one another. We become an extended family," Sharp says.

In the end, it's a great way to reach out and engage with people who need the engagement. Riggs describes it succinctly: "It's looking after those that have been cast aside, and saying not only do they have worth, but they are loved, and they can change."

To find out more about Dinner and a Movie, please visit their website and Facebook page.

Image credit: Dinner & A Movie