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Homeless Advocate Staging Play About His Father's Struggle

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A longtime advocate for the homeless has begun channeling his efforts in a new direction.

WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger reports Rick Roberts is recognized as a tireless advocate for the homeless, but he gave up his hands-on work as CEO of the Chicago Christian Industrial League to focus on making documentaries.

"I felt I could make more of an impression, and do the kind of work where we really made significant changes, if we told the stories of people," he said.

Homeless Advocate Making Documentaries

His new project is deeply personal - staging a play he wrote himself.

"It's about a homeless man named Mark who lives on a bench in Grant Park. It's called 'The BenchMark,' and it's based on the life of my father, as well as two other homeless men who I knew," he said.

Roberts said he learned through his work at the Chicago Christian Industrial League that homelessness can happen to anyone.

"I once had a woman client who came from a very wealthy family on the North Shore of Chicago – at the Christian Industrial League – who ended up homeless, because of her mental illness. Her family wanted nothing to do with her," he said. "I had another woman who ended up homeless, because her husband – a Fortune 500 CEO who will go unnamed – beat the bejabbers out of her on a regular basis. Finally, she showed up one day battered, bloodied, in her designer clothing."

"The BenchMark" will run at Chicago's Athenaeum Theatre from Sept. 13 through Oct. 20, with some of the proceeds going to the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness.

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