Dignity Harbor chronicles a group of homeless people living in an encampment along the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis. In the shadow of the Arch, several makeshift communities—Hopeville, Sparta, and Dignity Harbor—are erected when work begins to fill the tunnels under Tucker Boulevard, displacing many homeless. In Dignity Harbor, the self-appointed mayor promises a safe environment—women are especially to be welcomed—and the residents work cooperatively to cut wood and build rudimentary shelters. But conflicts inevitably arise, tempers occasionally flare, and everyone struggles to survive the harsh St. Louis winter.
This film showcases a unique college class where students go beyond talking about possible solutions to the problems facing American society to implementing actual policy changes that get at their root causes. Over a 12 year period, the film follows classes as they try to solve devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina; successfully raise the minimum wage in San Jose, California; and develop policies that confront homelessness. Providing a mode for democracy to come alive in the classroom, it also educates students in improving their communities, and society at large.
The Museum of Homelessness worked with neuroscientist Dr. Lasana Harris and several participants who have experienced homelessness to understand what is termed 'the bystander effect,' where people form a dehumanized perception of others through a lack of social engagement. In this film, the camera tracks across three scenes to hear stories of homelessness from various different perspectives in an effort to change the way it is understood and discussed.