‘City of Lost Stories’: Unveiling the lives behind the stereotypes

photo source: Corina Marie, Founder of FREE Foundation Inc.

Atlanta is a tale of two cities. Yes, Atlanta is known for its glory and successes, but there is another side that few people ever think about – a side where the hopes, dreams and aspirations of many have seemed to dissolve, leaving them with little more than the clothes on their back. While Atlantans are aware homelessness touchesthe lives of many (and see much of such), we often have a “blind-eye.” One particular individual is determined to make sure it does not go overlooked anymore.

Jameka “Corina-Marie” Baker, is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization F.R.E.E. (Freedom Restores Everlasting Empowerment) Foundation Inc., and a board member for Family Promise of Cobb County. Throughout her positions, Baker strives to bring a much more focused, personal awareness of those who have been labeled “homeless” in the Atlanta area, but she aims to do so in a very creative way.

City of Lost Stories, is Baker’s documentary focusing on individuals who have been affected by homelessness.

“It’s not just those who you see on the streets. It’s transitioning shelters, people living in their cars, youth younger than 12, college students, and so many more people,” said Baker. “We wanted to help bring awareness about homelessness in Atlanta, Georgia. Especially for those who are unaware of it being so crucial.”

How did you come about founding FREE Foundation Inc.?
Growing up passing by someone on the streets would break my heart. I would always question, “Why is this person here?”, “Why doesn’t he/she have home?” Even as a child, I refused to walk past someone on the street without giving them a dollar or smile. As I grew up, I did more research on homelessness and began to volunteer with local shelters and churches. In early 2014, I was sitting in my apartment just thinking about ways I can help contribute towards the community. I wanted a platform that can be useful not only for myself, but for the youth and young adults of the community. That’s when God led me to Free Foundation Inc. Free is an acronym for Freedom Restores Everlasting Empowerment. Our mission is to help empower youth and young adults through leadership and community service. In today’s generation many of our young adults are without the support from family, friends, community which can be a disappointment to empowering any values within each self.  Our vision is to help build self-esteem, develop leadership skills, and recognize the value of community service. Our goal is to be our own teacher of teachers. We want to raise up a new generation of positivity. For us, this means more than helping people to know the right path. It means equipping them to live positively and to be transformed and renewed by this encounter. In this way, we hope to help people know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

photo source: Corina Marie, Founder of FREE Foundation Inc.

What about homelessness caught your attention enough to produce a documentary on it?
I shared a conversation one day with someone on the streets and I was thinking to myself, “what if others were able to hear this story? Would it change their mindset about homelessness?” There’s so many untold stories that need to be heard from those who have experienced homelessness or who are currently experiencing homelessness.

What is the overall goal for this project?
The goal is to break the stereotypes of: they chose this route for themselves, if they wanted to they could get a job and stable living, everyone who’s homeless lives on the streets, you can’t be homeless and have a full time job, its only elderly people who are homeless, youth and young adults can’t be homeless, etc. We interviewed with individuals who are able to tell you their story of which statement they’re under. We want people to have an open mind to when the next time they pass a homeless person on the street or the random stranger they see walking. Homelessness doesn’t have a “look” but with having a kind heart and open mind can help break these statistics.

photo source: Corina Marie, Founder of FREE Foundation Inc.

What’s the main idea you want viewers to take away from City of Lost Stories
We want our viewers to take away a different mindset with them after watching the documentary, a new-found love for their community and strangers. We’re not asking people to pass out [money] to homelessness; sometimes all they want is a simple conversation. You never know what someone is dealing with just because they don’t fit the “image” or what society portrays it to be.

City of Lost Stories is set to be released in March. Check out the trailer below:

Lauren Ashli
Lauren Ashli

I'm a passionate journalist with a love for storytelling through multimedia platforms. Just imagine the millennial version of Oprah, with an Issa Rae sense of humor. Throw in a sprinkle of Cardi B's energy, with a mood always on Beyonce. Follow my journey on Instagram @lauren.ashli



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