Roundtable Interview with Ronald Krauss & Kathy Difore
Director of “Gimme Shelter” & “Real-Life” Homeless Shelter Owner
Dallas , Texas , January 9, 2014
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen for “The Presbyterian Outlook”
Presbyterian Outlook (to Kathy Difore): I have a lot of personal identification with you, because my wife and I were foster parents for newborns. We had 27 of them.
Kathy Difore: Oh, my goodness. At the same time?
PO : No, over a period of several years (everyone laughs). And so we worked with adoption agencies and kept them anywhere from three days to eight months, depending on how long it took them for the adoption process. So the whole thing about treasuring the babies, and giving them a nurturing place to be---that was something I identified with your work a lot, and I applaud your work.
KD: Thank you. I think the whole key is love. You can put that inside that baby from the first moment.
PO : Well, this was years ago, but a strange thing has happened recently; a couple of them have come to see us, and say “Thank you,” and to meet us as an adult. It was amazing how much effect that initial love had on them.
KD: Yes.
PO : That little amount of care at that critical point in their lives.
KD: All of us—those synapses are forming in our brains, so to trust another adult, even when older, is based on that first two years. So that first eight months you gave that child is like the foundation of how much they trust somebody.
PO : Were the scenes in the home (in the movie) realistic?
KD: Four of the babies were our babies. Four of the mothers were our mothers. He (Ron Krauss, the Director) used our props, like at the Christmas scene, just pulled them out of the closet.
Ron Kruass: Yes, four of the Moms in the movie with Vanessa (Hudgens) were actual Moms from the shelter. And 23 babies.
PO : How did you do that as a Director?
RK: It’s complicated. (everyone laughs) But it was always the intention to create the feel in this movie that it’s realistic, like a documentary. I shot the movie on Super 16, which nobody uses anymore---it’s like 70’s documentary film footage. Today they try to make it look as pretty as possible, and shoot it on super-high-def video, and I went in the reverse. I wasn’t sure it was going to work with “real” girls, who were non-actors, but I had lived there for a year in the shelter, writing that script and working with these girls, so I knew them pretty well. And Vanessa came, and she lived in the shelter with these girls, for about three weeks. And she transformed into the character. So we were all like a little family, and we were very familiar with each other. One of the girls, Darleesha, was one of the girls who inspired me to make this film. She had a life of suffering and abuse---they don’t know anything else. But the one thing these girls never had in their lives is opportunity. And that’s the difference between them and someone else. At the time we were filming, there was an economic recession in this country, people were suffering, people finding themselves homeless and without jobs, and the shelters were filling up with people who had done everything right their whole lives, but now needing help to get off the streets and not wear this badge of “homeless” which was embarrassing. And that made this film even more important to me, not so much about teenage pregnancy, but what the definition of “family” is today. If you didn’t have the perfect “American Dream” family, people felt like outcasts. I was trying to show that no matter who you are or what your challenges are, don’t lose hope. There’s somebody out there who can help you in kindness and support and selflessness.
PO : Did you get to meet the real chaplain?
RK: Yes.
PO : What was he like?
RK: He’s a tough guy. From the War (World War II). Some of the language was still in there. He was an old-timer. But he was guy who helped get one of the shelters.
KD: When I ran out of beds in the shelter, he offered me the empty convent for $1 a year. I can’t begin to tell you how much I think of Monsignor McCarthy.
PO : What passage were you reading in that chapel scene? I want to know---I asked Vanessa and she didn’t know.
RK: In her hospital he was praying the St. Francis prayer,
PO : Yes, which is not scriptural---I’m talking about in the chapel, that moment she changed.
RK: I don’t remember. I didn’t sleep last night, I’m sorry. But I’ll get back to you!
PO : Please do! …..Karen, how did you decide to let Kevin into your shelter?
KD: He was in the area visiting his brother, and he just knocked on the door one day and asked to do this film. After I met with him about it, I decided I just needed to pray about it. So I asked the Holy Spirit to guide me, and as I did, I kept hearing the clock in the next room chiming every 15 minutes, and when it did, I kept hearing “trust him”…..”trust him”……”trust him”…….I finally said “OK, I trust you.”
RK: She felt like it would inspire other people to use shelters like hers, and save those babies. Check out our website to find out where other shelters are.
PO : Thank you both for your time.
Both: Thank you!
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas