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Using Film as a Social Work Tool

Paul, one of the clients featured in Cory Gordon's film about a housing program for people who are homeless in Anchorage, AK. Screenshot from film.

Paul, one of the clients featured in Cory Gordon’s film about a housing program for people who are homeless in Anchorage, AK. Screenshot from film.

Cory Gordon, a student in the social work master’s degree program at the University of Anchorage in Alaska, also has a minor in filmmaking.

Gordon decided to combine social work with a talent for film by making a moving, 11-minute documentary about the Anchorage Community Mental Health Services Inc.’s (ACMHS) housing program for people who are homeless.

ACMHS’s program is based on the sometimes controversial Housing First model that calls for social workers, counselors and others to first give people who are homeless their own apartment and then treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, mental illness, or other issues that may have caused them to become homeless.

The film introduces viewers to Oretha and Paul, two people who were formerly homeless and risked their lives sleeping on the dangerous and frigid winter streets of Anchorage. Oretha and Paul both said they turned their lives around through the ACMHS housing program.

Cory Gordon

Cory Gordon

“The Anchorage Community Mental Health Services believes that everybody deserves a home, particularly people with disabilities in our communities deserve a safe, warm place to live,” said ACMHS housing clinical manager Corinne O’Neill, MSW, who appears in the film. “And we also believe recovery can’t begin without a stable home for people.”

Gordon’s said the film is now featured on the ACMHS website and the Alaska/U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website. Gordon wanted to share it with other social workers and encourage them to use film to advocate for clients and issues important to social work.

“I believe film is a powerful force we can either embrace or waste,” Gordon said. “I think it is our duty as a social worker to keep up with the ever expanding media driven society.”

You can watch Gordon’s film on YouTube. To learn more about how social workers help clients from all walks of life address mental health, relationship and other issues visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” consumer website.

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1 Comment

  1. Fantastic job, Cory!

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