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Brianna Karp and I met a couple of years ago as authors writing for a blog on homelessness. Just like many who have been reading her “Girl’s Guide to Homelessness” blog, I too have been reading and watching her journey unfolding and morphing into what is now a book of the same title.
One thing that I have found to be extremely inspirational is the fact that in the midst of experiencing homelessness, Bri was always concerned about all of the others, who were suffering as a result of not being able to afford housing. From the very beginning, she was helping to serve as a voice for those who are homeless.
Clearly, she was thrust into positions of being interviewed on national television, which most of us will never experience. We could all tell that this was a bit scary for her, yet when opportunity knocked, despite the fear and unavoidable stigma associated with being homeless, Bri courageously told her story and made sure that she did what she could to debunk the stereotypes.
Even though we may never personally be under that sort of spotlight, I would like to suggest that we have other smaller, yet powerful ways to have our voices heard. For example, recently, I was invited to speak at our local Homeless Services Oversight Council concerning giving a report on the National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness, which I attended in February. Following my presentation, I decided to remain for the rest of the meeting. During that time, the topic of creating a “Safe Parking” project came up.
As I listened, I could hear various members voicing concerns and the time came when, rather than voting on and passing their endorsement of this project, it looked like the item was going to be tabled in favor of more research. When the chairman of the council asked for “Citizen Comments,” despite not planning to speak or having prepared anything to say, the sound of my tear-filled voice shocked even me.
“I was a divorced, single parent of a 13 year old, when I found myself between jobs,” I said. Then continued with, “My son and I ended up sleeping in our car. It was terrifyingly dangerous. All night long the police kept telling us to move. In this county alone, there are over 3,800 men, women, and children, who are homeless and only 200 shelter beds. People MUST sleep somewhere! I just want to thank all of you for taking the steps necessary to help the people in our community, who are experiencing homelessness.”
Much to my surprise, following these heartfelt impromptu words, a vote was again called and this time, it passed unanimously! It was the first time in my life that I realized my voice could have such a powerful impact and potentially make a positive change in the lives of others, who are struggling. After the meeting, the woman, who was most opposed to moving forward with the vote, came up to me and thanked me for putting a face to homelessness.
Tips for Having Your Voice Heard
■Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper concerning something about which you feel passionate
■If you are currently homeless or have been un-housed in the past, join the “Faces of Homelessness” Speaker’s Bureau
■For those of you, who are service providers, start a “Faces of Homelessness” Speaker’s Bureau
■Join the World Homeless Action Movement on Facebook
■Attend the National Conference on Ending Homelessness (they offer amazing scholarships for folks, who have experienced homelessness, which include transportation, hotel, registration, & a $75. Stipend for misc. meals and ground transportation)
Most of all, I encourage you to remember this quote by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
(A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3])
It is critical for all of us to speak out in our communities concerning our experiences with homelessness. Our voices can be powerful tools for positive change. Let your light shine and your voice be heard, because one person truly can make a difference and that person is YOU!