Houseless youth share stories through film

Youth living in the margins of society have some of the most compelling stories to tell. Outside the Frame, a nonprofit that provides houseless youth the opportunity to express themselves and build career skills through filmmaking held their annual gala screening at The Armory on Nov. 13  an enthusiastic crowd.

OTF’s participants are close in age to Portland State’s traditional undergrad student population—18–22 years old—but the nonprofit also works with teens 16 and younger.

Hairapy by Jacob Averi depicted getting a haircut for an upcoming job interview, recounting the recent death of the subject’s mother as he was styled. Hairapy’s setting was very simple, yet the experiences of grief were immensely complex, which made the film compelling. The story of loss is one many can relate to and when Hairapy’s epilogue revealed Averi got the job, it was met with thunderous applause.

The show’s featured presentation, Leaving Home by Brandon, Denzel, Nova Lux and Vahid Bullock, details the life experiences of several OTF filmmakers. Moving across the country trying to escape bad circumstances is a harrowing experience that people from more secure backgrounds could not imagine.

People leave home for many reasons: drug use, multiple family members in and out of jail, or family rejection for coming out as transgender. Seeing them tell these stories, I found myself thinking about how many more young people may be leading similar lives. Later on, filmmakers shared how they joined OTF and what the experience brings to their lives.

Director Shiloh Rayn and lead actor Hadia co-edited Away From Death. This powerful movie shows the obstacles young people face when living with no place to call home. The mental strain of living on the street often leaves individuals with suicidal thoughts and gnawing anxieties.

The Vicious Cycle, staring Kaysilana Leatherbury and written by Nick Lyrix, shows how street living makes people vulnerable and sometimes helpless, making improving their situations even harder. Routinely being taken advantage of affects every aspect of a person’s well-being.

I left the screening with feelings of disbelief and admiration. The films presented were moving, and showed that overcoming a disenfranchised life isn’t easy, but organizations like OTF give those in tough situations a fighting chance, and shine a light on who they can truly be—and are.
Below the Shield: Outside the Frame is supported through donations and booked screenings of their filmmakers’ work. To make a donation or book a film screening, visit their website at