By Jared Januschka | Drama
A homeless man tries to feed his dog, then discovers his self-worth.

Eric is a man living on the streets, with only his dog for company, a bike to get around on and all his belongings packed into a large backpack he carries around. Running out of food for his dog, he realizes that he must find a job, even a temporary one.

At the shop, he does something kind for a woman, who in turn buys him a cup of coffee. Not realizing his economic situation at first, he connects with her on a human level, which inspires him to see himself in a new way.

Directed by Jared Januschka from a script written by Max Curry, this short drama puts a relatable face on a problem that can seem abstract or uncomfortable to many, with its multi-dimensional character portrait of a homeless man struggling with shame and self-worth. Shot with a muted naturalism that can alternately easily between grit and lyricism, the storytelling examines a key but often unconscious assumption that people who are homeless look and feel a certain way.

However, Eric can "blend in," enough so that a woman named Roxanne buys him a cup of coffee in a spontaneous encounter full of interesting conversation and a warm connection. But as we see from Eric's earlier attempt to apply for a job, Eric carries the stigma of homelessness, which comes out as defensiveness and hostility when his prospective employer asks for an address. The pacing is steady, allowing us to take in the weight of each moment and realization for Eric, making for a psychologically absorbing story.

Actor Ryan Shoos as Eric gets at how this inner shame at being homeless underlies his behavior, even as he emotionally implodes during his interview. Shame keeps his houselessness a secret -- one he hides with an ability to look "respectable." But keeping that secret comes at a cost for Eric. So it's an enormous progression for him when he finally confesses his truth to a sympathetic ear. It makes him vulnerable, but it also lifts the shame enough for him to stand in his truth and move forward.

The gift of "Peaches" is not just in the emotionally engaging character, performances or writing, but in the fundamental dignity and compassion that it endows its main character. It portrays not just how lacking an address can affect attempts to build stability, but how the assumptions of others can eat away at someone's innate sense of worth. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 326,000 people a night experience a lack of shelter. Like Eric, many of these people can blend in, making their homelessness a type of "invisible condition." Yet inside, they struggle with the same judgment and lack of compassion from the world at large. "Peaches" puts us in the shoes of someone navigating the cracks in the social firmament, showing how easy it could be to fall in, and how that spiral often begins within.

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