Real-Life Charity Group Featured in ‘The Florida Project’

'The movie is a wonderful chance to bring awareness to a real problem in our community,' organization's founder tells LifeZette

by Elisa Cipollone | Updated 12 Oct 2017 at 8:12 AM

A lot of people don’t know about a community living on the brink of homelessness right next to the happiest place on earth.

A new film called “The Florida Project,” which is already generating Oscar buzz, is highlighting the problem of communities of people living in poverty at motels in Orlando right next to Disney WorldThis story interestingly comes at the problem from a child’s perspective, as if follows a six-year-old Moonee and her band of childhood friends who live in these motels.

The film is directed by Sean Baker, who made a name for himself with the movie "Tangerine," which was shot on an iPhone. He explained he took inspiration from the Little Rascals (of the "Our Gang" comedies) for "The Florida Project." The film doesn't have an overt faith message — it's mainly focused on the dark underbelly of a community living on the brink of poverty.

An organization with a big impact on the daily life of the real community in Florida, however, makes an appearance in the film and was involved in the production — a Christian charity called Community Hope Center. The children in the film are seen running up to the charity's van, grabbing whatever food they can get their hands on at one of Community Hope's food drop-offs at the hotel.

"The Community Hope Center is a program-based project that impacts the low-income, poverty-level families and individuals living in and around Osceola County, Florida. The primary emphasis is to serve those living homeless or in motels and hotels along Osceola County’s 192 Corridor. This programs works to restore dignity and self-sufficiency to those in need in our community through a holistic approach to case management, funds assistance, and life skills," reads the charity's website.

The work that this organization does is critical to so many who live "The Florida Project" every day in their struggle to get out of poverty.

"I think the movie is a wonderful chance to bring awareness to a real problem in our community. Although the film is fiction, there are real families living in hotels and motels who are making all the right choices and still are stuck," Reverend Mary Downey, the executive director of the Community Hope Center, told LifeZette.

"I am the founder and executive director of the CHC. Although we are not a faith-based agency, I say we are faith-friendly. My goal of opening the Community Hope Center was to bring holistic care to all those in need in our community. As a pastor it's a mandate in my belief system to care for our neighbors, and the folks living into hotels along the 192 are my neighbors," Downey continued.

When asked about the faith aspect of their community and what she wanted to share, Downey said: "The CHC is here to let people know that just because a person is in poverty does not mean they aren't involved in some sort of faith affiliation. It's important for me to claim for my brothers and sisters that they are people just like anyone else who are looking to be accepted and loved in our community."

"They have jobs, they are working hard, and yet they still lack housing. Our community is working hard to address the issue, but we need more housing that's affordable ... I wanted to make sure people realize that though there are stories like that out there, that we are not ignoring them, that we are not sticking our head in the sand here," Downey told her local news channel.

"The Florida Project" is in theaters now, and is an eye-opening tale of what living in poverty is truly like for a child.

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