The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

The Arc of Northern Virginia - Housing Choice Voucher Mini-Series

Last year I was hired to film a short documentary series that quickly became the most meaningful project I've ever worked on in my professional career to-date.  That project was The Arc of Northern Virginia's Housing Choice Voucher web series.

I first became familiar with The Arc during my time filming the Wings for All program, which is a simulated commercial flight experience so individuals with disabilities may learn and practice what it's like to navigate an airport, get screened by TSA, and board a real aircraft.

After my work on several Wings for All events, The Arc of Northern Virginia tapped me for a new video project - a documentary web series portion of a grant in partnership with the Virginia Housing Development Agency and Virginia Housing and Supportive Services.  Each short film educates viewers about the Housing Choice Voucher option offered in Virginia.

Housing Choice Vouchers give individuals with disabilities affordable access to independant housing, which increases quality of life and satisfaction over other housing options, such as group homes.  This allows other sources of income, such as Medicaid waivers, to go further in paying for other necessary services such as in-home caregivers.

Filming the series took place over the course of several months, in various locations across the Northern Virginia region.  Filming this series introduced me to many vibrant people with incredible stories, and all do great work in the local, state, and even national community, which you'll see in the series itself.  This series was truly and incredible experience to work on, and even though it was definitely the most challenging project I've taken on to-date (this series required an immense amount of post-production; each interview was about 1.5 - 2hrs long), this documentary series is by far the most meaningful project I have ever completed - I am truly proud to have been a part of it in cooperation with The Arc, and I truly look forward to more projects similar to this one.

Before we get into the series itself, I'd like to share some useful links which will help you learn more information about Housing Choice Vouchers in Virginia.

And now, here are all films in the series.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #1 - Brian

Brian, his family, and caregivers detail how his life has improved thanks to the Housing Choice Voucher following his traumatic brain injury.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #2 - Gail and Esther

Gail and Esther are best friends who live independently in the same apartment complex, and have technological aids to help them.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series #3 - David and Rory

David and Rory live together in spacious apartment, and are now able to cook their own meals and travel their own community, which was impossible in the group home setting they both lived in before receiving their Housing Choice Vouchers.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #4 - Rogan

Rogan's Housing Choice Voucher has helped provide him with a stable home with a live-in caregiver, as his parents begin to age.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #5 - Theresa

Theresa Rankin was homeless from the medical expenses following her traumatic brain injury, but a series of events turned that around and now she has an apartment where she lives independently.  Theresa then founded, a national non-profit organization in partnership with PBS specializing in preventing, treating, and living with traumatic brain injuries.  Theresa continues to be a National Community Educator with Brain Injury Services.

Housing Choice Voucher 2016 Series: #6 - Robert

Robert was able to receive a Housing Choice Voucher even after a legal misunderstanding resulting from his disability, after he completed a Reasonable Accommodation Application.

Finally, I have to thank Kymberly DeLoatche, Lucy Beadnell, Rikki Epstein, Janene Shaw, and everyone else who was instrumental in making this large, technical, and wonderful project a reality!  Thank you for all your help!

Wings for All

Earlier this year I was brought in on a program which is probably the most meaningful project I have worked on to date.  Wings for All is a bi-annual event at Dulles which seeks to teach and acclimate individuals with autism and other special needs to commercial air travel.

This simulated event is real and authentic in every way except that the aircraft does not push back and take flight.  Participants begin by arriving at the airport and checking in at a United ticket counter, where they check their bags and are given real boarding passes.  Next, they proceed through a TSA security checkpoint, where they are actually screened.  From here, participants must navigate the airport to their gate.  At the gate, passengers (participants) board the Boeing 777 by assigned group number, stow their carry-ons, and prepare to take flight.  Cabin crew give the safety briefing, the pilot speaks over the intercom, everyone buckles in, and the lights turn off for departure.  "In flight," the cabin crew provide refreshments.  Soon it is time to "arrive;" the seatbelt light chimes and turns on again, the pilot announces the weather, and soon the aircraft "lands" and passengers deplane.  Finally, participants proceed to baggage claim to pick up their luggage from the carousel, before luncheon stopping by the luncheon to conclude the morning.

The Wings for All program is a fantastic opportunity for anyone with special needs who wants practice with commercial air travel in a controlled setting with guidance as needed.  It doesn't matter if you've flown 100 times, or never at all, because it allows participants to experience everything about an airline flight except for movement of the aircraft.  It is also beneficial to those in the aviation industry because it provides real world practice with aiding those with special needs, in addition to training and awareness sessions that are provided leading up to each event.

In the Spring Wings for All session, I was called upon to film the event, producing the video below.  This past weekend I also filmed the Fall session, and I will soon be updating the promo video as requested, and creating a 30 - 60 second spot for Wings for All to be further promoted.

Wings for All events can be found at other airports, including locally at DCA and BWI.  At Dulles, Wings for All is organized by The ARC of Northern Virginia in partnership with The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and sponsored by United Airlines and Marketplace Development, among others.

This was also my first foray into videography, which I currently will only undertake for select projects for longstanding previous photography clients.

I am so fortunate to have continued involvement with this rewarding program!