Recently at the SXSW festival, a film that documents East Austin's first and only emergency homeless shelter for both immigrants and those seeking asylum, regardless of whether they're documented or undocumented, made its official debut.
The film, which is titled “They Live Here, Now,” made its debut this past Sunday afternoon at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, with additional screenings to follow later on this coming week.
“They Live Here, Now” tells the story of a teenage girl from Mexico whose brother was tragically murdered by members of a gang. After making her way to the United States, she finds herself at Casa Marianella, the aforementioned emergency homeless shelter. Through this, the audience is able to meet the real-life occupants of the shelter, as well as see what typically goes on in their daily lives.
Thanks to the film, the audience will be able to see exactly how the shelter's residents do many things, such as assist one another with daily tasks, building up a fellowship with each other, and even take classes to learn English. Refugees from locations such as Somalia and Iraq are featured, and all share their own unique stories of forgiveness, acceptance, and having the chance to start a brand new life in the United States.
Casa Marianella has been in operation since 1986 and has seen many individuals pass through it, such as Salvadoran war survivors and many different immigrants and refugees from approximately 40 countries. Additionally, the shelter also offers various resources of both legal and medical natures, and back in 2003, the shelter opened a separate branch known as Posada Esperanza, which is exclusively for both women and children. Currently, Casa Marianella operates 13 different homes which serve more than 300 people on an annual basis.
Crystal has been coming to AFTS Open Studio for more than 5 years and tries to attend once a week “so that I feel like I’m doing something - life’s not just passing me by. I have something to look forward to.”
“Life can draw you away from your real talent, and AFTS helped me rediscover an old talent. [AFTS] gave me the opportunity to rekindle that talent.”
During these times of lock down, social distancing and increasingly less human connection, we are determined to bring our artists and others experiencing homelessness an opportunity for self-expression and creative relief to combat the increasing risk of depression and isolation.