HOLLYWOOD, CA (FOX 11) - Hundreds turned out for a candlelight vigil in Hollywood Monday evening to honor and remember the lives of the 5,000 homeless youth who are estimated to die on America's streets every year.
The vigil was organized by film director Rotimi Rainwater, who is releasing a film this fall called Lost In America. The film took three and a half years to make, and included interviews with 30 homeless teens in 15 American cities.
"It's a film that takes an unflinching look at the reasons kids are on the street, from sex trafficking to failure of the foster care system to the rejection of LGBT youth," Rainwater said.
And it turns out, Rainwater used to be homeless himself.
"I was homeless in Orlando, Florida at the age of 19, I lived under a bridge, and was taking care of my my mother who was battling cancer at the time," he said. "I ended up homeless because she got sick, and I got out of the Navy to take care of her, and by the time I got home we had lost our place."
Rainwater hopes Lost in America will shine a light on the plight he once faced. A plight an estimated 35,000 people face here in Los Angeles.
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"Being homeless is difficult because it's a sense of rejection that you feel, it's a sense of wanting help, not wanting to be on the street, but everywhere you turn, people are looking at you like you're not worth it," he said.
The film is important to people like Oscar Guerrero, who has spent much of his life in L.A. without a home, and has ended up at the hospital after eating food he found in a garbage can.
"My dad got deported in 2013, and I've pretty much been homeless ever since," Guerrero said. being homeless is tough cause there's people trying to lure kids out here, young adults out to skid row trying to get them to buy marijuana and stuff."
Officials with the city are aware of this, and hope that recent voter approved measures will help with the problem.
"Homelessness is everywhere, it's no longer just Skid Row, I take the metro and just seeing it even on our transit lines, walking up here to this location of Hollywood Boulevard and it breaks my heart," said Alisa Orduna, the homelessness policy director for LA mayor Eric Garcetti. "Thanks to the voters we know homelessness is on everyone's mind so the passage of HHH which is our homelessness housing bond is gonna help up create 10,000 units."
Lost in America is set to be released in October, and Rainwater has a message for youth who are struggling like he once did.
"I was you, I was one of those youth, living under a bridge, crying every night, and I'm here now," he said.