|Documentary focuses on reaching the homeless|
In an image from the 2007 documentary “Lost in Woonsocket,”
Normand Cartier discusses going into detox with his “roommate” Mark
(last name not given), as Cartier’s children look on.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Nov. 12, 2008 | PROVIDENCE, R.I .
Cartier’s alcoholism separated him from his family for years. His
addiction also left him with no place to live for three years. He had no
faith in God. “A lot of people on the street believe that God did this
to them,” he said. “God was not there to help them out so they lose
But now that he is sober, Cartier added, “I believe in God today. I
am not here by myself. I did not put myself clean and sober. (God)
granted me a second chance at life.”
It was his chance appearance on a network television show which led a
new sobriety and a re-connection with his children, a story told in the
award-winning documentary film, “Lost in Woonsocket.”
The key reason for homelessness is loss of family, according to the
Rev. Brian Souza, a United Methodist pastor who provides a ministry that
brings dignity to the person living on the street. Communities of faith
can help fill the void by reaching out, he said.
Cartier and Souza, lead pastor of “The Rivers” United Methodist
Communities, a multi-site church serving the Blackstone Valley, are
among those featured in “Lost in Woonsocket,” a story of human
transformation, perseverance and hope. Both spoke in October to the
United Methodist Association of Communicators.
‘Random 1’ TV show
The 2007 film, a follow-up to a television show called Random 1,
shows the homelessness, alcohol abuse and recovery Cartier and Mark
(whose last name was not given). The television show’s premise was to
select a person in need of help and then try to find someone willing to
supply that help out of the goodness of their heart – without the TV
crew providing any money or direct assistance.
After the show’s producers ran into homeless and alcoholic Mark, they
threw out the rulebook to get him some assistance. Mark also introduced
them to his friend Normand, who was featured in some of film’s cold,
The Rev. Brian Souza stands by the
catering truck used by the Mobile
Loaves and Fishes program to
help feed the homeless.
When Mark’s story aired, the show’s producers received an e-mail from
Cartier’s son, who recognized him as the father he and his two siblings
had not seen in 13 years. After Random 1 was canceled in 2005, Mark and
Cartier’s story was turned into the “Lost in Woonsocket” film,
chronicling the efforts to help both men achieve sobriety and re-connect
with their friends, family and a society that shunned them.
In the film, Mark relapses, loses his way and once again becomes
homeless. However, the documentary’s emotional perspective spawned a
grassroots movement called “Lost and Found in America,” whose mission is
to “change the way our country offers to help those who are homeless or
are afflicted with addictions.” With Cartier as the principal
spokesperson, the film is a fundraising and awareness tool for recovery,
homeless and faith-based organizations.
Souza runs the Matthew 25 Center, a gathering place offering meals
and worship opportunities to the homeless. It is at the center where the
lives of Souza, a former law enforcement investigator, Cartier and Mark
“The idea was that God was at work in this thing,” Souza said. “God
destined this to happen and it really kind of opened some doors for us
as a church to be able to speak to people about the problems of
homelessness in the area and the problems with the addiction community.”
‘An amazing ride’
The documentary and everything leading up to it was “an amazing
ride,” according to Souza. The church received a truck to make its
feeding ministry mobile. Each day, the mobile ‘Loaves and Fishes” serves
the hungry, hurting, poor, the least and lost.
In addition to serving food and providing toiletries, numerous United
Methodists involved in the ministry “bring dignity to the human person
out there on the street,” he added. Church members across the country
are involved in loaves and fishes ministries to help the homeless in
their cities and towns.
Cartier discusses the documentary during the United
Methodist Association of Communicators meeting in Providence, R.I.
Quoting Mother Theresa, Souza noted that poverty is often thought of
as only being about hungry, naked or homeless. “Poverty of being
unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty of all,” he
said. People of faith can reach out and become family to those who are
homeless and to those who suffer from addictions, he said.
Cartier believes that churches and people who feed the homeless and
talk to them on a daily basis offer hope, a sense of belief and trust.
“They start changing and start believing in themselves,” he explained.
“A happy hello, a smile and a handshake means a lot to a homeless
Through Lost and Found in America, Cartier tells his and Mark’s story
around the world and directs homeless people to various organizations
to enable them to “have the same chance that I was given.” He encouraged
others who have been through recovery and “opened their hearts to the
Lord” to help spread the word to those in the street.
Homeless ministry “is not for the faint of heart,” Souza said. “It is
a ministry where you have to show what you are talking about is real.”
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Normand Cartier: “I believe in God today. I’m not here by myself."
Normand Cartier: "I get on my knees in the morning. I ask him to keep me away from a drink and a drug all day long."
The Rev. Brian Souza: "Hey, there’s a restaurant across the street. Meet me over there and I’ll buy you something to eat."
The Rev. Brian Souza: "I’m just being available and all of those things are happening."
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Lost And Found in America
Lost in Woonsocket