Documentary about homelessness in Tucson

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Tucson photographer and filmmaker Patrick McArdle has documented the lives and struggles of homeless people for years. McArdle first spent six months photographing homeless people in San Diego in black and white and said the project was unsolved because the city made no effort to fix the problem. But in Tucson, the work of an Army veteran inspired McArdle’s recent project, Here Comes That Dreamer. The full documentary will be screened on Thursday, March 18, from 6pm to 8pm in the MSA Appendix.

McArdle shot his documentary on the streets of Tucson from 2015-2020, taking two years off during his own battles with cancer. The documentary covers a wide variety of people and focuses in part on Jon McLane, an Iraq war veteran with PTSD who leads the Veterans Rescue Mission aimed at minimizing relapse and suicide rates among veterans and civilians.

“My intention is to show the public that there are solutions. You just have to be active and ready to make it happen,” said McArdle. “I hope this documentary changes something.”

McArdle met McLane at the start of filming, originally interested in McLane’s Safe Park project. As part of this effort, several boxes were placed in Veinte De Agosto Park in the city center to provide shelter for the homeless, but these were closed after a legal battle with the city.

McLane, now an ordained minister, helped introduce McArdle to film the homeless population.

“Your responses ranged from ‘I don’t care’ to ‘You can’t do this, you are violating my privacy rights,'” said McArdle. “But I would go there mainly with Jon and he would introduce me to the people in the church and after he introduced me and I spent some time there. It wasn’t long before they started trusting me. While I was talking to them, I set up my tripod and it became a nice conversation environment. ”

McLane’s Veteran Rescue Mission, a registered 501 (c) 3 non-denominational Christian organization, is now working on an acre of land in front of Ina with supporters and tiny houses for the homeless. Although they have since moved out of the downtown area, the organization still faces legal obstacles for the county. In 2019, they received a letter about their zoning issues that limited their ability to develop on the property.

“He’s an idealist, motivated, and ambitious,” said McArdle. “He has a big heart and is always ready to help others and do what is necessary. I focused on him because he was a source of ideas. This guy is innovative and risks his freedom for others. ”

Although the Veteran Rescue Mission is not a perfect project, McArdle said it interested him as a topic because it offered a “possible solution” and served as an initiative that was not present in other cities. ”

That’s one of the reasons I got excited about this documentary. There was a solution, ”said McArdle. “Tucson is more responsive to citizens’ demands and concerns. When I started making the documentary, Tucson had concerns but still treated them like bums. But Jon’s actions made people more aware while the San Diego city didn’t seem to care that much. ”


McArdle is the only producer of the documentary he considers a “zero budget passion project”. While the possible solutions are inspiring, the documentary also reveals the difficult and alarming reality of homelessness, from addiction to mental illness.

“I hope that the people who see it will realize what street life is really like. There are many documentaries about homelessness out there, but they focus on one person and follow them, ”said McArdle. “But that shows the struggles and the camaraderie and the horror of it all. But it is also important how people become active and get out of these situations and do something about it. Jon’s actions and protests actually made a difference. ”

“Here Comes That Dreamer” will be shown on Thursday, March 18th, from 6pm to 8pm in the Mercado San Agustin Annex, 267 South Avenida del Convento. Tickets are $ 20 and are available at the door. The documentary is preceded by a short film “Transformation of Sorrow”, which recalls those who lost their lives to murder. Between the two films, there will be 15-minute appearances by the singer / songwriter Mitzi Cowell and the visual artist and singer / songwriter To -Ree-Nee Wolf. “Here Comes That Dreamer” can also be rented from

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