Award winning documentary film about a homeless encampment on the outskirts of town, the individuals who choose to live there and the volunteers who help them survive each day.




In The Media


About The Film

         In January 2011 Paul Crane(Director) discovered a tent city in downtown St. Louis, along the Mississippi River. He was curious as to who these people were, how they ended up there, and what life was like for them each day. So for a few weeks he spent nearly everyday at the tent city volunteering and getting to know people. He began to think that this place and the people living there could make a great story and he asked them if he could shoot some video, and they said “okay”. He initially thought he would simply go down during the day and capture footage when possible, but he quickly realized that if he wanted to truly capture how these people lived and the full reality of their collective and individual existence, he would have to be there full time and become a part of the place, so he moved in with them.

        He was intrigued at how tent city was populated by so many people of different races and ages and beliefs, but they all had to learn how to live together in order to maintain the existence of their homes. Right away he learned that an overall feeling among every resident was that they preferred living there over a homeless shelter, and he wondered if this could possibly be a good alternative for homeless people. Some of the residents had jobs, had cars, were in relationships, and this was their home. It was just a different type of home.



Wulf is one of the original residents of St. Louis’ tent city. He moved into the “Sparta” camp after leaving “Hopeville” because of a fight. He runs “Sparta” with the help of his many volunteer connections. He rightly admits that he prefers to live outside as opposed to having a house.

“I just need to find a place, like a log cabin and get away from the world. I like the world, I’m just not one for the world.




Blake has been homeless for most of his life but soon after he moves into the Sparta camp he meets a volunteer couple that changes his life.

“They’re like a mom and dad…that sounds weird for a 50 year old going on 20, but it’s like having a mom and dad, for real…something I haven’t had in years bro”.



Bonnie and David

David and Bonnie have been a couple for several years and after being evicted from their apartment they were forced to start sleeping outside. After being kicked out of place after place by the cops they finally ended up at tent city and moved into the “Sparta” camp.

“I don’t think I would’ve made it without Dave”   – Bonnie

“Sometimes i wish i wasn’t with her, sometimes I’m glad i was with her”   – David




Jeff has been homeless for almost 10 years.  He became homeless after becoming disabled.  Eventually he heard about “tent city” and liked the idea of sleeping in a more private setting as opposed to sleeping on the streets. He was one of the first residents of the tent city when he moved in and he eventually started the “Sparta” camp.

“My mom always said you can’t live for free. If my mom was alive today I’d tell her ‘ya know what, you can live for free cause i’ve been doing it for 8 years, and so have a lot of other people. I know people who’ve been out for 30 years’.”



The Volunteers

Eric has been a volunteer for a few years and he spends his time driving around with food, blankets and other supplies looking for homeless people who need help.  “What you gotta do is you gotta go through em all and find they ones that want help. You’re gonna go through a lot of crapping getting there, but you’ll eventually find the ones that want it” – Eric



Catherine never cared about volunteering until one winter night she was leaving work and saw a man sleeping outside and was unable to ignore him. She returned later with blankets and clothing. She now concentrates mainly on trying to help homeless women secure housing.  “I’m a single mom, going down there, alone at night…it doesn’t make sense, there’s other things I could be doing with my time. And yet I still know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing” – Catherine



Mark and Stefanie had heard about tent city from someone at their church. They decided to drive down and see the place and they immediately became hooked. They quickly jumped all in, spending all their spare time helping homeless people.  “It’s hard to know when you’re helping and when you’re enabling. I’m sure we’ve done plenty of enabling…but we mean well” – Mark



The Crew

Directed by Paul Crane

Edited by Paul Crane and Liz Fornango

Produced by Matthew Hyland

Original Music by Matthew Hyland

Sound Editing and Mixing by Hugmonster Sound

Executive Producers     Kelly Hyland and Roger Miller

Additional photos by Robert Boettcher and Mark Ogier

Additional footage by Wulf


A special thanks to all those who helped support the film

Mr. and Mrs. Mattson
Mark Ogier
Joe “Taxi” Bellinger
Luke Terrell
Kayla Katz
Dennis Riggs
John Morris
Tim Kiefer
Dave Delaney
Ryan Mortland
Chris Reimer
Dylan Kress
Sam Coffey
Kassi Corley
Jamie Kreher
Tyler Kessler
Mike McGreal
Ron Klutho
Bill McLellan
Jeff Mortland
Charlie Kennedy
Nancy Francis
Kathy and John Anderson
Jim and Debbie Reimer
Steven and Kate Reimer
Maryann and Val Eversgerd
Andie and Craig LaBarge
Rex Miller
Pat Anderson
Andy Wilson
Phoebe Landrum
Pat Webster
Barry Schrank
Chris Gibbons
Mark Schulte
David Drier
Jennifer Hillman
Cap Grossman
My Family

About The Filmmaker

Paul Crane is a native of St. Louis, MO and Living In Tents is his feature-length directorial debut. Paul started working in film/video when he moved to New York to enroll in a film program at New York Film Academy.  After a few years in NYC, he moved back to his hometown and quickly discovered the homeless tent city in downtown St. Louis, and he immediately knew he what his next project would be.

Paul started filming Living In Tents in 2011 and officially wrapped the project in 2018. For several years during this time Paul had to put the project on the shelf so he could concentrate on starting his own video production business, Crane Creative. Since then Crane Creative has produced videos for clients such as Washington University, NASA, St. Louis County Library, Maryville University and many others.