Through the form of a TV docuseries and with the help of a National Media Network, we aim to help raise national awareness of some of the causes and effects surrounding homelessness, helping create a new paradigm on poverty and homelessness.
By connecting with our audience, we hope our TV Series will push viewers to think more openly, and challenge themselves to see the world from a different viewpoint. We believe that by bringing the world together to share these stories of homelessness and a community uniting, it will help make us more tolerant of difference and of one another.
“I have always had a strong desire to film Lee’s story and those of other people currently experiencing homelessness, and when Lee passed away it reignited that fire.” – Zach Waters, Founder & CEO
At A Lee Dog Story, we believe that Lee can serve as an inspiration to those currently experiencing homelessness while also giving a blueprint to community residents who want to end homelessness permanently. At A Lee Dog story, we are committed to learning as much as we can from Lee’s story and other individuals currently experiencing homelessness.
We are excited to announce that Christopher O’Conner, Memphis native and founder and CEO of Prodigi Arts is helping produce this TV series. Chris and his team of professionals, including Emmy Award winning cinematographer Joel Evans have created projects for Disney, Memphis Grizzlies, FedEx, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital just to name a few, and are now working on several major TV productions in L.A.
In 2008, while attending Memphis College of Art, Zach Waters set out to film a trailer for his docuseries concept, in which he would interview homeless people in Memphis, TN to hear their stories. After filming multiple stories around the city, one of the most profound interviews Zach filmed was Lee Brown’s, aka ‘Lee Dog’. Lee lived on the streets of Memphis for almost 20 years, but in his last 15 and with the help of the Memphis community he was able to get off the streets and into stable, affordable housing.
In July 2018, Lee Brown passed away in Memphis, TN. Zach Waters founded A Lee Dog Story the next day, successfully becoming a federally exempt 501(c)(3) organization in less than one month.
Storytelling Through Art
At a Lee Dog Story and Homes for Hearts, we understand that many types of people experience homelessness and that although they have fallen on hard times, each of them have unique abilities and skills to bring to our communities. Many social service organizations often look at clients as “people with problems”. Staff ask “what’s wrong with this person?” or “How can I fix this person?” Instead of focusing on what is wrong with our client, we begin by emphasizing a person’s strengths and resources (internal and external) in the process of change. When challenges are experienced, problems and issues are acknowledged and validated, and strengths are identified and highlighted. This creates a powerful cycle where our clients are constantly improving themselves and their surroundings as they progress on the path to stable housing.
At a Lee Dog Story and Homes for Hearts, we utilize “People-first” language. This rhetorical strategy, which has been embraced by the CDC, the American Psychological Association, and many others, is used as a way to break down negative stereotypes and promote the self-worth of individuals. Because of this, we refer to the people we are working for as people first—as adults, young people, children, Veterans—who are experiencing homelessness. When we use language such as “homeless people” or “homeless services,” it does not convey the vision of effective, person-centered responses that end homelessness and instead can sound like we’re describing an intractable problem that is about people who are fundamentally different from us. By using the description ‘people experiencing homelessness,’ we put the responsibility on our entire community to bring about a change to the status quo.
Ethical Storytelling Pledge
At a Lee Dog Story and Homes for Hearts, we are committed to telling stories in an ethical way so as to best promote the humanity and dignity of everyone we engage with.
A Lee Dog Story signed the Ethical Storytelling Pledge!
We pledge to:
- Tell others’ stories the way we want our story told.
- Always put people first.
- Explain to constituents the purpose of the story, where it will be used and answer any questions they might have before photographing, filming or recording.
- Find an able translator if we speak different languages.
- Ask the constituent if they wish to be named or identified and act according to their wishes.
- Use all images and messages with the full understanding, participation and permission of the constituent or the constituent’s legal guardian.
- Uphold the dignity of our constituents through empowering imagery and messages that motivate engagement and inspire hope.
- Truthfully represent a situation or story to educate our audiences of the realities, complexities and nuances of the issues we advocate for.
- Not use images, footage or words that sensationalize or stereotype a person or a situation.
- Ask for feedback from our constituents and incorporate this feedback into the final story.
- Abide by international law, standards and protocols related to vulnerable persons, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
- Listen to our constituents’ voices and respect their decisions, story and journey.
- Hold a posture of humility and learning, recognizing that failures can be our biggest educators.
- Seek advice if we question whether a particular story, message or image is not in alignment with ethical storytelling practices.
- Not tell the story, despite the resources invested, when the story cannot be told with the integrity of this pledge.
- Take ownership of our responsibility to uphold integrity in our storytelling and messaging.
As a community of nonprofit practitioners and storytellers we commit to learning from the past and integrating a new standard of storytelling as we journey together into the future.
What will you film?
- Stories from men, women, and children experiencing homelessness in Memphis, TN.
- A community uniting to help people experiencing homelessness off the streets, with housing, community-based social, and emotional support, food, clothing, health care, medication, transportation, a steady paying job and financial planning.
- Construction of our first Homestead in Memphis, TN, including the volunteers that help build the tiny homes and community.
- The arrival, transition, recovery, and empowerment of our 6 Cottage Court residents over a 12 month period.
- Street artists, fine artists, digital artists, photographers and their artwork created and inspired by A Lee Dog Story and Homes for Hearts, to help raise funds and awareness for our project. Their contributed artwork will help tell our story of poverty, homelessness, home, hope, growth, recovery and Lee Dog. At A Lee Dog Story, we believe that art is incredibly powerful and helps to connect and celebrate community, showcase values, and embrace the humanity of all people. In order to change the current paradigm on homelessness in Memphis and around the country, we will come together as a community to learn more about the humanity of those experiencing homelessness through a variety of artistic mediums.
- Lee Brown’s story of living life on the streets for over 20 years, and how in his last 15 and with the help of the Memphis community he was able to get off the streets and into permanent, affordable housing. This story will be recounted through his family and friend’s memories, news articles and past videos of Lee. At A Lee Dog Story, we believe that Lee’s story can serve as an inspiration to those currently experiencing homelessness, while also giving a blueprint to community members who want to end homelessness permanently. At A Lee Dog story, we are committed to learning as much as we can from Lee’s story and other individuals currently experiencing homelessness. Once we know their stories, we can work together in solidarity to end the plague of homelessness in our communities.
- Our artist’s and community’s personal experience with homelessness.
- Our Homestead residents, neighbors, volunteers, case workers, community leaders, artists, social workers, health care professionals and construction team’s stories of community, and how it helps to transform a city, its neighborhoods and people. Beloved community means believing in justice and equal opportunity while always committing to show love to fellow human beings. Each of our Cottage Courts will be anchored by the establishment of a beloved community, made up of the residents and the surrounding neighborhood.
- Our city, Memphis, TN along with its people, infrastructure, culture, arts, businesses, and history. Memphis is an amazing city, with a rich history of culture and arts and we look froward to shining a light on its residents, community, architecture, culture, food, arts, history and hopes for the future.
- Stories of homelessness from other major cities across the U.S. Each city handles homelessness in a very different way, and we aim to learn from each city in order to help figure out what is working and what is not, in order to bring together the best overall solution to help our friends experiencing homelessness.
- History of Homelessness in the United States, and its impact on the economy, environment and our country’s population.