Lately, I’ve been pleased to contribute to Nashville’s street newspaper. The Contributor is published by our homeless and formerly-homeless community. Although these projects exist in many different cities, The Contributor has quickly established itself as the biggest street newspaper in the country.
A film recently screened at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville quickly garnered a buzz in the art scene. The documentary tells the story of photographer Mark Hogancamp. It’s a tale about the human impact of lack of health insurance, mental illness and addiction on America’s at-risk populations. Marwencol is also a tribute to the regenerative powers of art.
One Man’s War
On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp went to a bar in his town of Kingston, New York. After being harassed inside, Hogancamp left, but was followed and attacked by five men who kicked and beat him without mercy. His face and brain were so severely damaged that Hogancamp remained in a coma for nine days.
Upon regaining consciousness, Hogancamp had to start from scratch-learning how to eat, talk and walk as if for the first time. Although he made fast progress in the first forty days after his coma, his real challenge was only just beginning. After just over a month of therapy, Hogancamp was informed that because he was uninsured he was no longer eligible to receive further treatment.
Lack of insurance or under-insurance is a constant reality for people on the streets or at-risk of becoming homeless. For folks who are already homeless, the dangers of life on the street are compounded by a lack of access to proper care should they become sick or injured. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC), 70% of homeless individuals are uninsured. Even beyond more extreme forms of poverty, lack of affordable health insurance remains one of the primary culprits in jeopardizing formerly-middle-class lives. As the NHCHC’s 2010 policy statement reveals, 62% of all bankruptcies last year were attributed to an unexpected medical emergency.
While Hogancamp doesn’t wind up on the street, his meager surroundings and the overdraft notices in his mailbox reveal that he is among that growing group of Americans for whom an unexpected illness or injury can be financially devastating.
In addition to illustrating the perils of the uninsured, Marwencol also speaks to the addiction issues that often plague at-risk communities. After being told he can no longer receive therapy at the hospital, Hogancamp moves home, where he explores his surroundings and interviews his friends to fill in the blanks regarding the person he used to be. While his old journals reveal that Hogancamp had been a talented comic-book-style illustrator, they also remind him that he had been a tormented alcoholic.
Read more at Street News Service
Joe Nolan <3