Film director and real estate entrepreneur Valerio Zanoli (www.valeriozanoli.com) has recently presented the first images of his latest work, the documentary HOMELESS, at the 2022 Statewide Conference on Ending Homelessness. The event was hosted by Nevada Homeless Alliance, and it included speeches and workshops with representatives from local and national organizations, such as Steve Sisolak (Governor of Nevada), Jason Pu (regional administrator of the Department of Housing and Urban Development), and Brooke Page (Director of Corporation for Supportive Housing).
The conference took place in a very critical moment in U.S. history: Rent prices are skyrocketing, inflation is the highest in decades, and over half a million Americans are living on the streets. The homeless population of Nevada has grown for the first time in many years: According to the 2022 Homeless Point-In-Time Count and Survey, on any given night there are 5,645 individuals experiencing homelessness in Southern Nevada. The Silver State and the Las Vegas metropolitan area are ranked the worst state and metropolitan area in the U.S. for extremely low-income tenants because of the lack of affordable and available housing and because of the housing cost burden. Of the 50 largest metropolitan areas, Las Vegas ranked first among “most severe” affordable housing shortages.
During the Statewide Conference on Ending Homelessness, some footage from the documentary HOMELESS was publicly screened for the first time. The movie was filmed a few months ago in Southern Nevada by movie director and real estate entrepreneur Valerio Zanoli, who attended the event and talked of his experience. For nearly a decade, he has provided affordable housing in the Las Vegas area, renting exclusively to those people nobody else is willing to house because of their low income, eviction history, or poor credit score. He has helped approximately 600 families and individuals by giving them the chance to come out of homelessness. He has also developed the project Helping Vegas (www.helping.vegas) by bringing together several landlords, charities, and organizations in a collective effort to mitigate the housing crisis.
Zanoli explained: “I’ve been helping the homeless population for years by providing housing, but I felt I needed to do more. So, I decided to make good use of my directing skills to give life to a documentary that is meant to show homeless people for what they really are: People. As a famous quote says, there is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There is only us, one human family, connected in ways we sometimes forget. I make films to have an impact and give purpose to my life. We should all make a difference, because, together, we can really change the world and make it a better place.”
The documentary HOMELESS is a cinematic portrait of everyday life on the streets. It follows the stories of 5 homeless individuals, who share how they lost their home, the fears and issues they need to face, and what keeps their hope alive. The film has the support of countless organizations, and it features interviews with many homeless and housing advocates: Christine Hess (Executive Director of Nevada Housing Coalition), Catrina Grigsby-Thedford (Executive Director of Nevada Homeless Alliance), Chris Petersen (Legal Director of ACLU of Nevada), Donald Whitehead Jr (Executive Director of National Coalition for the Homeless), etc.
The documentary HOMELESS and Zanoli’s other socially conscious films are part of the project Let’s Make a Difference (www.letsmakeadifference.info). They talk of important issues (i.e. childhood cancer, bullying, Alzheimer's), raise funds for charities and hospitals (i.e. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital), and move audiences to action. They feature Academy Award winners, have been distributed all over the world, and have won several awards (including a Social Commitment Award, an Excellence Award, and dozens of film festivals). While his film NOT TO FORGET (with Oscar winners Cloris Leachman, Olympia Dukakis, Louis Gossett Jr., Tatum O’Neal, and George Chakiris) was opening in movie theaters across the United States, Zanoli wasn’t wasting any time. Instead, he was on the set of his documentary HOMELESS, which is currently in post-production.
More recently, Zanoli has developed the Homeless Festival, which will be launched in 2023 and, for its first edition, will be hosted by Nevada Homeless Alliance. The organization is celebrating its 30th anniversary of bringing people together to advance solutions to homelessness. It does so by partnering closely with federal, state, and local government, business, philanthropic, civic, faith-based organizations, and people who are currently experiencing homelessness and those who have in the past. Nevada Homeless Alliance works closely with the State of Nevada, Clark County, and all the nonprofits that attended the Statewide Conference on Ending Homelessness. All these entities are crucial for providing the resources the underserved population desperately needs. However, “we need 84,000 more units,” said Christine Hess, Executive Director of Nevada Housing Coalition.
The several awards and certificates of appreciation that Zanoli received from the Governor of Nevada, U.S. Vets, The Salvation Army, and many other homeless and housing organizations are evidence not only of Zanoli’s achievements, but also of the fact that combining a successful business and social commitment is possible. Zanoli emphasized: “These prizes are not a reason for complacency. Unfortunately, fighting homelessness is still a daily commitment and something that we cannot overlook or ignore. Charities like The Salvation Army and agencies like Clark County Social Service are doing an extraordinary job, but this is a social problem that affects all of us, and all of us – as a society – need to come together so we can solve it.”