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Student Project: A Haven for the Homeless

Emily Rose-Wagner

In her new documentary, Home, May 2008 graduate Emily-Rose Wagner 05F uses the camera to build a connection between people with homes and people who live on the streets, two groups often disconnected from one another.

Approaching the subject of homelessness from the vantage point of the Los Angeles Public Library, the nation's third largest central library, Wagner focuses on how the library serves as a haven for the homeless. "Anyone can go to the library regardless of how much money they have," Wagner, a Los Angeles native, says.

During her first year at Hampshire, Wagner switched her concentration from movie soundtracks to film, video, and media studies after watching alumnus Brett Morgen's 87F documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture. She says she never would have read a book on the subject, but the film was accessible and inspired her to make "visually engaging art that is really important."

"Everybody feels hunger, love, joy, loneliness," says Wagner, a key point she wanted to make in her documentary to highlight the humanity in everyone regardless of their standing in society. "I learned that [for the homeless] it's not about not having a home or being hungry, the hardest thing is feeling disconnected from society and not being acknowledged."


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In Los Angeles, most homeless services are centralized downtown near the library. Wagner says this area has the largest population of homeless people in the country in a small-state center.

Wagner was the recipient of a 2008 Sander Thoenes Division III Research Award, given to students to help defray the costs of fieldwork and research. Part of this award went toward distribution expenses, allowing her to send the documentary to film festivals. Home was accepted in the 2008 Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival, and her long-term goal is to reach a larger audience by getting it televised.

She spent the summer working on two film and video internships with Hampshire alums in Santa Monica, and will turn to freelance filmmaking for the next couple years. In movie making, she says, "I'm interested in talking about the human experience."

Find out more about Wagner's work at

Sander Thoenes Research Awards
The Sander R. Thoenes Memorial Fund at Hampshire College was established in memory of Sander Thoenes 87F, who was killed in 1999 while covering political upheaval in East Timor for the Financial Times. These annual awards support students pursuing Division III projects in the areas of journalism, international relations, and peace studies.

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