FAQs “Guttered”

Thank you so much for watching our documentary “Guttered.” This attests to your heart and to your compassion toward those who have fallen through the cracks. It is truly inspiring to know that so many in this country from all political persuasions still have the capability for charity and love toward others; regardless of what might make us think otherwise given what we see and hear on the daily news.

If you haven’t seen the documentary, view it on YouTube by a search for “Guttered,” or use this link. See the trailer below if you want a test drive.

We encourage you to Like the documentary on YouTube and to Subscribe. These actions will help us to get advertising and then some monthly payments from Google (YouTube’s owner) for new films and other projects dedicated to lifting up Street Survivors.

Our upcoming projects include:

  • Episodes: Create films in which unsheltered/formerly unsheltered people participate: our first films are intended as serials (episodes): Pothead and Odd Sports.
  • Streets to Greets: A pilot project to determine whether or not panhandling at street corners can be replaced by holding signs to advertise local businesses, entitled “Streets to Greets.”
  • Prevail Homes: A pilot project to provide rooming house to currently homeless people via a cooperative housing model with our first Prevail Home. This method uses current houses on market with multiple bedrooms and features a gradual means toward inclusion in the job market.

FAQ’s for the Director, Jerry Sedgewick

The reasons are roughly divided into two parts:

  • How I want to live my life
  • How angry I am at how a rich country denies its own.

How I want to live my life. It is my heartfelt belief that, as a person who believes love is charity, it is my duty to provide some kind of help to those who are less fortunate. Period. I would hate to die without having done something toward my fellow pilgrims upon this Earth who didn’t have it as good as I do.

How angry I am. It is not even immoral, but evil to allow two things to happen as a country:

  1. To send mostly young black men to prison for non-violent crimes, and then to punish prisoners rather than reform or rehabilitate. This is not just wrong, but something we’ll look back on, if we ever become civilized and fully human, with the same kind of horror as witch burning and lynching.
  2. To allow anyone to have to live outside, and, even worse, to make it seem normal.

Because I see them daily wherever I go and it’s simply not right. I don’t live in places like Africa where many contribute charitably: I live here. I want to know the people who lend me a hand, and I want to know people face to face when I lend them a hand. And note the benefit goes both ways: I benefit from befriending people outside my box.

I just can’t tolerate people on the streets in a country that is often cited as the richest country in the world (though that claim depends on how wealth is measured). As a person who believes in what Jesus said about having mercy toward the least with no questions asked, I find it impossible to put blinders on when seeing people on the streets, and not just that small percentage who occupy street corners with their homeless signs.

I grew up in a time when nobody held signs begging for money. I remember the shock of seeing my first and only sighting of a beggar at the age of 16 in Seattle. He sat on the ground with only stumps for legs, wild hair, bushy eyebrows, and beady eyes. He looked up at me and my family with a scowl while playing a concertina, his bowl with discarded coins and dollar bills in front of him.

I was frightened and almost jumped back. It was almost 30 years later that I saw my second panhandler, and then, out of nowhere, dozens more. I saw them at highway exits in the “most livable city in America”: Saint Paul, Minnesota.

I thought that I’d rather pay attention to the poverty surrounding me than in other parts of the world where charity is often toxic. And so I met with homeless people by volunteering at The Listening House. From there I attempted to mimic a program in Nashville, Tennessee, a city in which no one panhandles. Instead, they sell newspapers.

That didn’t work out. I didn’t have the donations to keep it going, nor could I get traction with homeless people (who often didn’t see a difference between selling a newspaper and panhandling with a sign) and officials (who didn’t know me from Adam). The project could have easily taken several years to get off the ground.

So I made the film ‘Guttered.’ It took over three years to complete. The hardest part was determining what parts of interviews to keep and which to throw out. Some dialog could have been excluded, such as Craig’s story about telling lies to get money from unsuspecting people, and the story about domestic violence (Kenneth). I included both because they tell a larger story.


I made Guttered to draw attention to Housing First as a solution, to the plight of those who are without shelter, and to the inevitable behavioral changes as a result of street survivor trauma. I wanted, also, to show the variety of people who become homeless, many of whom are like you and I. Sure, there are addicts, drunks, psychotic and neurotic people in that community. For the latter it can become a chicken and egg scenario: were they mentally ill before homelessness? Or did homelessness create the mental illness? Or did something before homelessness cause trauma, like it can for veterans and formerly incarcerated people?

We need to look at the bigger picture and make changes.

FAQs about Homelessness

The following topics are listed to answer potential questions about homelessness.

Behavioral epigenetics is a field of study that looks at epigenetic changes as a means for shaping the behavior of animals, including humans.

Epigenetic changes are those changes "around' or "on top of" the DNA sequence that result in heritable changes. Genes turn "on" and "off" (or silenced) depending on changes in the coating of the DNA structure.

Think of it this way: If all cells share the same DNA, how can each type of cell do its job? Certain genes must be turned on or off to make that happen.

A classic study in this field determined that a higher death rate occurred among children born during the Dutch Famine in WWII. Scientists concluded that certain genes in the children were silenced.

Behavioral epigenetics takes this a step further. Rather than follow the classic definition of epigenetics as a generational passing on of genes turned on and off as a result of environmental conditions, behavioral epigenetic studies look, instead, at immediate changes.

To stir the epigenetic pot even further, some in the alternative health arena have come forward with unproven claims about thoughts changing gene expression.

All the iterations of epigenetics do make one common claim, and that is the underlying notion that genes can be silenced via environmental conditions, a nurture overtaking nature scenario.

Don't give to panhandlers if they have a story about a wife and child in a broken down car where you can't see them. Even if the panhandler has a cut or bruise where he supposedly hurt himself jacking the car up. This is why the Craig's story was included. It's a way of alerting us to the wiles of hustlers when panhandling.

If panhandlers have a sign at a street corner, you must make your own assessment. Generally, it's better to give restaurant coupons so they can get a meal, but not all panhandlers look for that.

Daniel in the documentary recommends NOT giving. But we live in an area (Twin Cities of Minnesota) that provides both meals and housing, though even temporary housing is getting scarce. And panhandling is taking on new dimensions with whole families begging.

So it's hard to make a blanket statement.


Rooming houses provide a means for transitional housing, which is necessary when people have been out on the streets for extended periods of time. It takes time to get back into paying bills, making your own meals, and doing some tasks that were done for you when homeless.

More can be seen here: https://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/ending-homelessness/proven-solutions/

Because it costs LESS to house the unsheltered than it does to leave them on the streets. Period.

Here is a study that proves the point.