Menlo Park resident Laura Ferro is raising funds for a project to complete a documentary she is directing about women who are homeless and pregnant in the region.
The project for the commercial filmmaker started five years ago when Ferro herself was pregnant. She saw a news story about a homeless woman who gave birth at a bus stop, Ferro said in an interview.
"This story made me realize how much more we need to do as a community to care for our unhoused neighbors. Becoming a new mom is already challenging, but this story made me think about how hard it is for a woman to go through a pregnancy without a stable home," she said.
Ferro primarily makes videos for businesses with her production company, Rebel Monk. This is her first documentary, she said.
So far, she and her filmmaking crew have followed the stories of three women, two of whom were pregnant when the group started filming in 2017. Now, they want to follow up on the women and their children. The film so far highlights the experiences of women in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, she said.
Ferro recruited Shawn Shearin — who works with Redwood City-based homeless service provider Street Life Ministries and had herself once been homeless and pregnant — as line producer for the film.
"She knows everyone in this area," Ferro said.
Working with Shearin opened doors to connect with other homeless women. Some of the organizations that have been interviewed for the film are San Mateo County Health, LifeMoves, and a homeless shelter at Grace Baptist Church. The team plans to interview additional service providers, she said.
Now, they are trying to finish the film, Ferro said. Their project is being sponsored by the Redwood City-based filmmaking nonprofit Bravemaker and is conducting a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign. They're currently about $50,000 short of their fundraising goal, Ferro said.
They hope to complete the film by the end of the year. However, Ferro noted, sometimes the filmmaking process can take longer — for instance, if they decide to film another pregnancy, the addition could easily extend the timeline nine months or more.
She's also hoping the film raises awareness and empathy for what people are going through. Even small actions can make a difference to people who are unhoused.
"Having a conversation is a great way to start," she said.
"When I see someone on the streets I often sit next to them, introduce myself, and ask if they want a coffee or something warm to eat. Most of them accept my help, and they are grateful not just for the little help, but also for treating them as equals," she said.