Thank you to everyone who joined us at our first friendraiser. It was great to see so many familiar faces and to have the opportunity to meet and talk to a lot of new people. I also want to thank our wonderful staff of volunteers, as well as the Lagunitas Brewing Company, the Wine Foundry, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, Homeward Bound of Marin’s Catering Services and Eventful Events. It means a lot that so many people took the time to support our event. From that end, it was a great night, with a happy ending just like a good Hollywood movie.

Dogtown Redemption is a powerful documentary about a topic that is not very popular but very real for our country and even our very affluent Marin community. The film chronicles the lives of homeless recyclers in Oakland and the dynamics around their presence in that community. We at Ritter are very familiar with many of the themes. The threat and eventual closure of Alliance Metals, the business in west Oakland that provided a minimal source of income for the homeless recyclers in the film, is not dissimilar to what Ritter Center faced last year.

We were very fortunate to have the film’s director, Amir Soltani, at the event last week. He is a great story teller, and has created a film that portrays the struggles of the homeless individuals as he witnessed them. It wasn’t pretty, but Amir still manages to show why it is necessary to us to care for them as fellow human beings.

There are images in the film that are hard to process. This is not dissimilar to what we see at Ritter day in and day out. The truth of the
matter is that there is nothing pretty about being poor or homeless in America today. There is nothing pretty about the choices we as a nation provide to those who struggle with neglect, abuse, drugs or financial instability. And for sure there is nothing pretty about the consequences of those choices for our community. We are all caught in this struggle together. And we have allowed assumptions, stereotypes and fear to guide social policies for too long and we need to change that.

Amir spoke very eloquently about all of us supporting a positive change going forward. We at Ritter will continue to encourage community wide conversations that can lead to concrete, positive solutions for those in need. But we need your help to do so. Right now, just like in the film, too many of the stories we see every day don’t have a “happy” ending, and for us at Ritter, that is just not ok. We hope you feel the same way.