As a promotion for director Joe Wright‘s new film The Soloist, set to hit big screens April 24, philanthropic website, The Los Angeles Times and VH1 are offering ways to support America’s homeless population, particularly those with mental illness.

The Soloist tells the true story (with a few fictional twists) of LA Times columnist Steve Lopez‘s (Robert Downey Jr.) discovery of and subsequent friendship with Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a brilliant ex-Julliard student who ends up living and playing music on Skid Row in the midst of a struggle with paranoid schizophrenia.

The film’s official website hosts a “Get Involved” section where anyone with Internet access can learn about homelessness and mental illness in Los Angeles, contribute stories and enter to win a private hometown screening from VH1 of the film with 30 friends.

The contest aspects of the website may seem to negate the film affiliates’ heartfelt intentions, but the film itself has served as a vehicle for helping homeless/mentally ill in Los Angeles. Filmmakers recruited several hundred homeless people to play themselves in the movie, and naturally they will receive a stipend.

Aside from what the official website offers, the site for The Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation gives people a chance to donate online and volunteer (through Takepart) to help homeless and the mentally ill your local community.

It’s clear that the story will make a dramatic, possibly award-worthy film, but my hope is that the efforts to help those struggling won’t be isolated to the promotional campaign.

Will the film’s affiliates be able to successfully rally people across the nation to the long-term cause of helping the homeless and mentally ill?