Signs of Humanity

Willie Baronet

What is your favorite sign that you found during this film?

As odd as it sounds, there was a simple sign from a man in Las Vegas named Michael. It only had the words SPARE CHANGE on it. It was the tortured lettering done in ball point pen that made such an impact on me. It’s definitely one of my favorites. I also liked a sign from Eddie Dunn in Philly that said “Something to ponder: What if god occasionally visits Earth disguised as a homeless guy panhandling to see how charitable we are? Completely hypothetical of course."

There is a piercing moment where Willie discusses his artistry and how critical he can be. Do you believe all artists experience this? This strongly?

I certainly know a lot of artists who are very critical of themselves, and others who seem to not be plagued by any self doubt. I’ve always been in the first camp, and I tend to be drawn to others who are as well.

How did your definition of "home" change during this film?

It got broader and deeper. In hearing so many people answer the question, I thought of all the tiny details of life growing up in South Louisiana that I associate so strongly with home, like mom’s pork roast and rice and gravy. But at another level I realized that home is really not a place, but a feeling of being at home in my skin. And that may have been the biggest shift.

What is one thing you think people can do to affect change in the homeless population right now?

Pause and take a moment to acknowledge the humanity in someone on the street. Even if it is just a smile, I think that more compassion is the foundation for ALL meaningful change to this issue.

What does change towards a solution to homelessness look like? 

Acknowledging them as people first, then realizing there are so many different causes, and there is no simple and easy way to address them all. Some cities have begun housing them first and then addressing their other problems, and it turns out this is cheaper than doing it the other way around.

What do you hope for as a reaction to watching this jarring film?

Aside from the compassion thing, I truly hope that people will start conversations with each other, and that society might get a bit kinder as a result. There is a quote from Nelson Mandela that sums it up well: 

“A Nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”