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World Homeless Day: Social Entrepreneur Valerio Zanoli Gives Life to the Documentary “Homeless”

World Homeless Day is observed every year on October 10th to bring awareness to the issues of homelessness and inadequate housing. Homelessness is a global challenge: The United Nations Human Settlements Program estimates that 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing, and the best available data suggest that more than 100 million people have no housing at all. Over half a million Americans sleep on the streets and in shelters every night. Inequalities are evident among subgroups, and risk is significantly tied to gender, race, and ethnicity. As with so many other areas of American life, historically marginalized groups are more likely to be disadvantaged within housing and homelessness spheres.

Valerio Zanoli is a film director and real estate investor ( who has shaped his entire career around the concept of social entrepreneurship. He stated that “right after graduating from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Mom passed away. She was a social worker, and she taught me that giving is better than receiving. Soon, I realized that filmmaking could – and should – be used to make a difference.”

Zanoli’s latest film, the documentary “Homeless”, is an exploration of the causes and effects of homelessness, and is part of the umbrella project Let’s Make a Difference ( All the movies that Zanoli has recently produced and directed are socially conscious films that talk of important issues (i.e. childhood cancer, bullying, Alzheimer’s), raise funds for charities and hospitals (i.e. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital), and move audiences to action. These projects have featured Academy Award winners, have been distributed all over the world, and have won several awards (including a Social Commitment Award, an Excellence Award, and dozens of film festivals). For instance, Zanoli’s previous film “Not to Forget” talks of Alzheimer’s Disease and caregiving, and stars Karen Grassle and 5 Academy Award winners: Cloris Leachman, Olympia Dukakis, Louis Gossett Jr., Tatum O’Neal, and George Chakiris.

Zanoli has debuted the first teaser trailer for his latest film, the documentary “Homeless”, at the 2022 Statewide Conference on Ending Homelessness. The event was hosted by Nevada Homeless Alliance, and included speeches and workshops with representatives from local and national organizations, such as Steve Sisolak (Governor of Nevada), Jason Pu (regional administrator of the Department of Housing and Urban Development), and Brooke Page (Director of Corporation for Supportive Housing).

The conference took place in a very critical moment in U.S. history: Rent prices are skyrocketing, inflation is the highest in decades, and a new recession is looming. In this context, the documentary “Homeless” provides an honest look at what it’s like to be homeless. Though it was filmed in Southern Nevada, it depicts a situation that affects every metropolitan area in the U.S. and is ever more urgent. The movie follows the stories of 5 homeless individuals who share how they ended up on the streets, the fears and issues they need to face every day, and what keeps their hope alive. The film has the support of countless organizations, and features interviews with many homeless and housing advocates: Christine Hess (Executive Director of Nevada Housing Coalition), Catrina Grigsby-Thedford (Executive Director of Nevada Homeless Alliance), Chris Petersen (Legal Director of ACLU of Nevada), Donald Whitehead Jr (Executive Director of National Coalition for the Homeless), etc.

The 2022 Inaugural Statewide Conference on Ending Homelessness was hosted by Nevada Homeless Alliance, whose Executive Director Catrina Grigsby-Thedford stated about Zanoli: “He is what we consider a last-chance landlord: He goes above and beyond to ensure our veterans are not left behind, especially knowing that most of them have bad credit or a criminal record. He doesn’t ask them questions or pass judgement. Instead, he welcomes them with open arms and provides them with a safe and decent place to live. When in the past I was Assistant Coordinator at The Salvation Army Veteran Services, I was introduced to Valerio as a precious resource to help our homeless veterans get the affordable housing they deserve. Over the past few years, Valerio has helped an incredible number of veterans get back on their feet. He has always shown uncommon compassion and has never turned down a veteran in need. […] Having an ally like Valerio on our side is a precious resource and an inspiration. We share a deep desire to change the world around us and impact the future to end homelessness. The chronic lack of fair-priced accommodation in Las Vegas has become even worse with the Covid-19 pandemic. What Valerio does is a considerable step in the right direction: He gives homeless and low-income individuals a chance at turning their life around by providing affordable housing and the trust and dignity no one else is willing to give them. The endeavor to end homelessness is destined to succeed if we can support initiatives like Valerio’s and all the kind-hearted people who commit themselves to helping the underserved and proactively act to help others succeed.”

Over the years, Zanoli has developed numerous initiatives, including the project Helping Vegas (, which brings together several landlords, charities, and organizations that operate in Southern Nevada in a collective effort to mitigate the housing crisis. In 2023, he plans to give life to the Homeless Festival, together with Nevada Homeless Alliance, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary of bringing people together to advance solutions to homelessness.

Zanoli and his team are constantly looking for new housing opportunities to help the low-income members of our society. Unfortunately, land and construction costs have reached unprecedented records, making it difficult for real estate investors and developers like Zanoli to increase the number of affordable units on their own. Zanoli has stressed the importance for private and public sectors to cooperate: “If you consider that an individual on supplemental security income [$841] shouldn’t spend more than $250 per month on rent and bills – or 30% of their income – it’s immediately clear that public assistance and innovative solutions are needed now more than ever.”

In his real estate career, Zanoli was able to acquire and provide affordable units through accurate planning, a wise use of funds and resources, good management, and the creation of a network of charities and individuals with his same passion and goal: “The burning desire to make a difference has been the driving force behind all of this. When I make a movie, I build fictional characters and their stories; in my real estate career, I build affordable units, but, above all, I have the chance to build people up. Their stories are real, and they need to be shared with the world.”

For the past several months, Zanoli has been supervising the renovation of 2 rooming houses, which Clark County Social Service will use to house up to 25 low-income individuals, every night, right in the heart of downtown Las Vegas. Christine Hess, Executive Director of Nevada Housing Coalition, fully supports this project and stated: “To end our affordable housing and homelessness crises, we must consider all opportunities to provide solutions that meet those in need where they are and support their path along the affordable housing spectrum to housing security. The renovation and expansion of these two rooming houses is one example of an alternative solution that can impact multiple lives for years to come in Las Vegas.”

The several awards and certificates of appreciation that Zanoli received from the Governor of Nevada, U.S. Vets, The Salvation Army, and many other homeless and housing organizations are evidence not only of Zanoli’s achievements, but also of the fact that combining a successful business and social commitment is possible. Zanoli is the recipient of the “Lions Pride” award from Lions Clubs International, which is home to 1.4 million members who are dedicated to serving their communities and the world. He stated: “Our motto is very simple: ‘We Serve.’ Most people think that one is supposed to lead from the front or the top, but author John C. Maxwell extensively wrote about ‘leading from the middle.’ We are on a mission to support those in need through humanitarian services and grants that impact lives globally. Leadership is not a position, but an action. It isn’t a pyramid with the leader at the top, but an inverted pyramid with the strength being the point upon which others are built up. If I am not serving you, I am not a leader.”

Zanoli added: “Unfortunately, fighting homelessness is still a daily commitment, and it is something that we cannot overlook or ignore. Charities like The Salvation Army and agencies like Clark County Social Service are doing an extraordinary job, but this is a social problem that affects all of us, and all of us – as a society – need to come together so we can solve it. … As a famous quote says: There is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There is only us, one human family, connected in ways we sometimes forget.”

Additional resources and ways to help are available on the website of the National Coalition for the Homeless (, a national network of people who are committed to a single mission: To end and prevent homelessness, while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights are respected and protected.



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