When Evansville native Terri “Detroit” Hughes was approached about being a part of the major motion picture “The Soloist,” she was told there was no acting involved. She just needed to be herself — living on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, homeless, suffering from an eating disorder, and delusional.
As Hughes watched the completed film, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, which tells the true story of a journalist who befriends a homeless Juilliard-trained musician, it became her reality check.
“Being in ‘The Soloist’ caused me to be able to mirror myself,” says Hughes, who recently spoke at the University of Southern Indiana to dispel the misconceptions about homelessness and encourage those who need help to seek it. The event was part of the USI Symposium on Homelessness.
“When the camera would roll, Joe Wright (director) didn’t tell us how to act. He said, ‘Just be yourself.’ I just started to cry, because after a few days, it was such a reality check. It woke me up. I didn’t want to live like that anymore.”
Hughes was born in Evansville, but at two and a half weeks old she was adopted and went to live with a well-off family in Santa Cruz, Calif. But she found her life spiraling downward as she started returning to Skid Row on and off beginning in 1981 when her grandmother died. Then in 2006, she found herself staying long term after getting into trouble with the law for obstruction of justice, going through a divorce, and the death of her father.
Soon after the filming of “The Soloist” in 2008, producer Gary Foster saw there were more stories to tell about Los Angeles’ homeless population. He helped produce the award-winning documentary film “Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home.” Hughes, who was also featured in the documentary, says it reveals her lowest point to where she is now.
Hughes sought help through Lamp Community, a nonprofit organization that seeks to permanently end homelessness.
She now travels the country, conducting presentations on homelessness, poverty, mental illness, and drug addiction. She currently lives in Los Angeles, but is looking to permanently relocate to Evansville soon.
For more information about the USI Symposium on Homelessness, contact Julie St. Clair at 812-465-1169 or firstname.lastname@example.org.