Click on the image or link below to hear Jackie’s story.
My name is Anna Cassell and I am a Duke senior from Greensboro, North Carolina. Though I’m majoring in International Comparative Studies, I’ve found that documentary work is often more relevant than many of my other assignments at Duke. I enrolled in the Documentary Engagement course as a way to get to know people I normally wouldn’t come into contact with. Coming into the course, I did not know what to expect, except that it would involve photography and audio work, two areas where I wanted to improve my skills. All I knew about Housing for New Hope was what I could glean from a quick Google search the night before class started.
That said, I am so grateful for the opportunity to become involved with Housing for New Hope. I was impressed from the start by the program’s philosophy, accomplishments, and staff. This is an organization where staff believes in and truly invests themselves in their work, and where clients are able to appreciate the opportunities and spaces HNH provides.
I’ve enjoyed meeting residents of Williams Square, and spending time in the PATH van with Michael and Jackie, peer specialists who’ve allowed me to accompany them as they provide outreach services to homeless people throughout Durham. Jackie and Michael are very important to HNH because they have experienced homelessness as both clients and staff.
I am honored that Jackie has shared her life story with me, from her childhood, to her long battle with drug addiction and mental illness, to her recovery and becoming a peer specialist with HNH. She and Michael have both expressed that they cannot imagine a better job for her. She is warm and engaging, approaching each person she meets with humor and without judgment. She is as quick to trust her clients as she is to earn their trust. And, while she makes her clients laugh, through her humor she makes it clear how much she truly cares about them. Because she never slept on the streets or in the woods, Jackie’s story illustrates a facet of homelessness that is unfamiliar to most people. She’s graciously invited me into her immaculate home to conduct interviews. I hope that my documentary does justice to her struggle and achievements.