Hollywood superstar Richard Gere has praised the work of street papers and called their vendors “heroes” in interviews with two of INSP’s US members.
He told Philadelphia’s One Step Away: “I think these guys are the heroes, they’re the survivors.
“Your vendors are out there, they have done something heroic. They’ve pulled themselves out of a very deep ditch and they didn’t do it by themselves.”
Gere is currently promoting the film Time Out of Mind, in which he plays a homeless man named George who lives in New York.
As part of his promotional tour, he attended a private screening in Washington D.C. for nonprofits that work with homeless people.
After the screening, he met vendors and staff from One Step Away and Washington D.C.’s Street Sense.
One Step Away vendor Jerry Tucker said: “After one second I felt like I knew him for years. He directed his full attention to me, looking at me when we talked.
“He was so nice and open; you can tell he is all about helping the ones in need.”
In Time Out of Mind, Gere’s character George spends much of the film trying to be noticed. It is an experience that Gere had for real during filming.
Sitting on the streets of New York, the world famous actor found out how people look away from homelessness – even when the person on the street has starred in Pretty Woman and An Officer and a Gentleman.
“I was invisible in New York,” he said. “Because I was this character, people decided within two blocks of seeing me that I was a homeless guy, and didn’t look any further. This guy you’re talking to right now is the same guy who was on the street then – and no one made any eye contact.”
As a passionate advocate for homeless causes and a member of the New York Coalition for the Homeless, Gere has been instrumental in getting the independent film made, acting as producer and working on the project in one form or another for more than a decade.
He hopes it will draw attention to the huge numbers of homeless people in New York City.
The Coalition for the Homeless estimates that more people are staying in shelters in New York now than at any time since the Great Depression.
In an attempt to present a faithful story, Gere visited homeless shelters in preparation for the film, speaking to administrators, guards and residents.
For Cynthia Mewborn, a Street Sense filmmaker, the film certainly chimed with her experiences.
“No one’s really ever captured the essence of what it’s like to be in a shelter, and you guys nailed it,” she said.
Time Out of Mind is out now in the US. Check out the trailer below.