UNO Documentary: Home Free

What: The lived experience of homeless people in New Orleans

Film By: UNO student and documentarian Sabreen AJ.

Editor’s Note: NolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöp, pairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum, that results in a short documentary. Filmmaker Sabreen AJ interviewed two homeless New Orleanians, Amber and Irish. Amber and Irish discussed their personal experiences with being homeless, touching on topics such as mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, government aid, and the New Orleans non-profit Unity. 

[Read the full transcript of the interview below]



Amber: Hello my name is Amber. I’m 33 years old and I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana.

Irish: My name is Vincent Leforgia but I go by Irish. I’m from New York originally but I’ve been coming to New Orleans for about 10 years now. Usually we come in the winter time because I travel throughout the country year round. I’ve been traveling since I was 13 and I’m 35 now so we usually come down here for the winter because it’s nice and cool. It’s nice out, no snow. We don’t like snow

Amber: My mom, she wanted to be here. It was a bigger city, some more opportunities for work so we came here. She got a job, and we were doing okay. She was diagnosed with cancer. She was diagnosed in March and she passed away in May and I really didn’t know what to do after that. I had a friend who lived on the streets. She had been doing it for years and she’s like “well you know come and stay with me and I’ll help you anyway I can.”

Irish: I didn’t get along with my stepfather very well. Me and my mom got along very well but me and my stepfather would fight all the time, like fist fights, and that would always make her upset so I decided to leave because I wanted to see what else is in our country.

[How homeless people get involved in drugs and alcohol?]

Amber: I had managed to stay away from all of that and about a year after, I met a guy and he was like “you want to try some of this?” And I was like “sure” so that was probably the first time. Maybe not the first time, I mean I had experimented with some things when I was a teenager, did ecstasy once or twice just to see what it was like, but never any hard drugs until then, and then after that it was just an everyday thing.

Irish: I woke up one morning and when you’re an alcoholic, you got to have your morning beer or whatever. I went to go get my morning beer and I couldn’t stand the taste of it anymore so I just stopped and that was it. I didn’t want to drink anymore after that and it saved my life pretty much because doctors were telling me if I didn’t stop I could die soon. I’m only 35 and I don’t want to die right here. I still got a long time to go. 

[How do homeless manage to survive overdose problems?]

Amber: In my personal group of friends we don’t really have that problem very much. But other people, they come out here and they’re fresh and they get something and they overdose. There’s a needle exchange in New Orleans and they give out Narcan which is the drug that you give someone when they overdose and it’ll bring them out of it, so we keep a lot of it. I have an entire drawer dedicated to Narcan so when people need it, when something happens they come to me and I give it to them and we pretty much handle it ourselves. Very rarely does someone have to call the paramedics but every once in a while it does happen. For the most part, you know we know how to deal with it because it happens so often and we have the medication to give them to you know to fix it ourselves.

[Homelessness effect on mental health]

Irish: I’m really fucked up in the head, I’m sick. I got bipolar, I’m always depressed, I’m always sad. Being homeless definitely doesn’t help that but I still have fun I try to have fun but every day you have to get certain things done throughout the day. Basically like if I wasn’t homeless it’s the same thing you know. It’s just a different way of life and I think it’s a lot harder

[Aids from the City of New Orleans]

Amber: It’s filthy, it’s disgusting, people cannot use that. Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful gesture. The city decided since we were there, they’re gonna give us a porta potty and a sink you know, somewhere to wash your hands so we’re like that’s amazing, we’re so excited. But it’s contaminated. It is so gross, the water comes out of there and it’s brown and it smells. It’s terrible we can’t even use that.


Amber: I’m actually probably one of the luckier ones. I’m closer to the end of my stretch of being homeless. There’s a program called Unity and they help people get housing and stuff and I am in the process of getting a house from them and it shouldn’t be much longer. You have to get homeless letters. Basically, people in the community who know that you’re homeless, put in writing that you’re homeless, where you stay, and if you get nine of those and a mental health evaluation then you can get a house with Unity. They’ll let you pick somewhere so it’s pretty cool actually. 

Irish: Right now they’re trying to get us out from under the bridge, they don’t want us under the bridge anymore, but it’s the only place that we have to go. The funeral home across the street hates us, the people at that club I was talking about hate us, and they just want us gone and it’s like well where the hell do you want us to go? There’s no place for us to go. This is our only Safe Haven and it’s not even really that safe because we’re literally under the I-10 and then we have one of the major streets, Claiborne, we’re literally surrounded by carbon monoxide 24-7. Like I constantly am wiping black stuff off my arms and stuff just and it’s just carbon monoxide from the cars and it’s awful and that’s just slowly killing us. They just don’t want us here but there’s nowhere else where for us to go.


Amber: Happiness is a choice and so is hope and I hope that one day life will be better for everyone, not just me. But you know, things will change in the world so you never know. You gotta have hope.

Irish: I would just hope that one day I can have my own place and put my mark on society as somebody that helped.


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