Paradise comes with a price tag: some of the most expensive housing in America and the nation’s worst homeless crisis. The filmmakers spent two years following two single mothers and their kids from a homeless encampment in the heart of Honolulu into subsidized apartments. Along the way they befriend and interview representatives of every homeless group - the mentally ill, drug addicts, veterans, Micronesian immigrants, native Hawaiians, down-on-their-luck transplants from the mainland... each has a story to tell. As they explain in their own words how they became homeless, they break down barriers of incomprehension and distrust.
We also meet the experts and politicians trying to cope with the crisis - and we learn how the current system wastes hundreds of millions of dollars every year just to maintain the status quo. We see, for example, how the simple need of one homeless man to stay clean enough to be admitted to his regular dialysis treatment causes him to use EMS as his taxi service and the hospital emergency room as his shower facility – leading to a $125,000 a-year bathroom habit. Honolulu is at the forefront of cities trying to respond with “Housing First” policies, but as this film makes clear, until the community builds more affordable housing, closes the poverty gap and fixes holes in health and support services, the problem is destined to get worse.
Reviews / Quotes:
"Hawaii may be paradise for some, but for a shocking number of homeless people the island of Oahu has become a challenge in basic survival. Filmmakers Anthony Aalto and Mike Hinchey’s documentary, designed to motivate state residents to support legislative action on homelessness, is a work of advocacy journalism that carries a compelling urgency. The images of scores of adults and children on busy, urban streets—not just hanging out or sleeping, but living in makeshift encampments—are disturbing. The filmmakers get to know many of these individuals, capturing stories about drug use, mental health crises, victimization, or the folly of having moved to Oahu from the mainland U.S. only to end up without work, a place to rent, or resources. No Room in Paradise also presents numerous perspectives from government and city leaders (including Hawaii’s governor and Honolulu’s mayor), along with public health and housing professionals, on how to deal with these issues. What emerges is the fact that the lack of a master plan for coordinating services for the homeless is both costly and inefficient. It’s also clear that the people in charge of services are at the mercy of a state legislature that lacks both financial and political capital to pay for real solutions. What would help, they say, is a change in the public’s stance on homelessness, shifting from disdain and cynicism to a compassionate practicality. Although the film looks at trouble in one particular paradise, the issue is one that is being felt nationwide. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)" - Video Librarian
"When your work helps push the Legislature to debate a $2 billion dollar affordable housing bond in our little state, you’re talking about some powerful film making."- Dennis Francis, Publisher, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
"This film makes an honest and compelling case for the need to adopt new strategies to deal with the multiple causes of homelessness. It has galvanized Hawaii's legislature to act, and has encouraged diverse segments of our society to choose to work together to deal with the crisis. I have invited Anthony Aalto, the director of No Room In Paradise, to join our task force on homelessness – his voice must be part of the discussion. I would encourage anyone who is engaged on this issue in the country to watch Mr. Aalto's poignant film."- Senator Josh Green, Chair of the Human Services Committee in the Hawaii State Senate
"The best documentary on homelessness I have ever seen, both from an emotional and policy point of view. A truly useful teaching tool for graduate and undergraduate courses in Social Work. The film does an extraordinary job covering the complexity of the homeless crisis. It demonstrates how much money we waste just maintaining the status quo and how we could reap savings by investing in services and affordable housing. And it does this without ever losing sight of the basic humanity of the people living on the streets. This is a must-see for anyone studying Social Work, Public-Interest Law or Public Health policy." - Michaela Rinkel, MSW, Ph.D. Assistant Professor and Field Director, Hawai’i Pacific University School of Social Work
"They say a picture is worth a thousand words. “No Room in Paradise” has become an invaluable tool for us to let our students see the many different facets of homelessness in a very candid and concise way. We use it to begin a dialog with our new students across the helping professions (nursing, social work and public health) in our college about the problems faced and how inter-professionally we all work to resolve the issues. I also use it with my health policy students as a way to discuss how policy can help and can hinder solutions. We talk about how change is necessary as old ways haven’t remedied the problem." - Dr. Patricia L. Ah Sam Ed.D, MSN, PHCNS-BC, APRN, CNE Associate Dean and Professor of Nursing, College of Health and Society, Hawaii Pacific University
"This film does a superb job showing just how complex homelessness is. It illustrates the vast resources that are wasted triaging the symptoms rather than curing the causes of this painful social disease and it shows that if we built the desperately needed housing and provided the chronically homeless with social and health care services, the community at large would ultimately save hundreds of millions of dollars. But the film also captures the drama of the people whose lives it chronicles and I found myself rooting for them to succeed. Anyone who intends to work in this field should watch this film." - William Hummell, MSW, Director, Lighthouse Emergency Homeless Shelter, Hawaii Instructor, School of Social Work, Hawai’i Pacific University