What if we did not feel like avoiding homeless people on the streets? What if you felt brave enough to start a conversation and get to know someone who does not have a home? How might that affect the solutions?
These are questions that I wonder about.
Two years ago, I moved to Nevada County, and the first heavy rain in November of 2015 happened while I was caring for my sister’s dog. When I took Shambo for a walk, I noticed numerous people setting up encampments near the path where we were walking. Some were holding a tarp over their head and others had a chair turned upside down to protect them from the storm. As I tried to quickly move through this area walking my sister’s large black male greyhound, a soaked and disheveled man walked toward me and said “Hope that dog isn’t a male. My dog doesn’t like males!”
My immediate response was fear…then heartbreak.
It was a moment of truth, and I realized I could no longer turn a blind eye to what I saw before me. I imagine that the man with that dog was as afraid as I was, and he was so much more vulnerable. Shambo and I had a warm and dry home to return to, while these folks were making do with whatever garbage they could find to protect themselves.
My empathetic self came forth, and as I walked home I ruminated on how sad it was that people did not have shelter from a storm. As I sat sharing the experience with my dear colleague and collaborator, Susan, over coffee the next week, we evolved an initial plan, which has since turned into a California Humanities and California Arts Council grant sponsored project using the arts to connect with the story and humanity of homeless people.
Since January, 2017, we have recorded 50 stories from homeless people, organizations working with homeless people, officials charged with solutions, and concerned citizens. As we have collected these stories, we have heard moments of sweet kindness, sad moments of deep despair, and everything in between.
We asked a consistent question of most of our storytellers:
“What have you learned about people through your involvement with the homeless community?”
This was posed to each person. The answer most often given was:
“We are really all the same.”
How can we face this tough challenge of having a world that works for all, including those that fall on hard times?
How can we, as a wealthy society, feel at peace when our fellow humans are sleeping in the woods, on the street, and in their vehicles?
A Place to Call Home is a project to shift perceptions, and bring us together as a community to collaborate and co-create solutions. We are using the arts, photography, music, video, audio, fine art, writing, and poetry to tell these stories of humanness.
What does it mean to be a Human Being Positively Human?
It means having the compassion to reach out to our fellow man and lend a helping hand. This could be as simple asking someone who looks like they are having a rough time, “How is your day going?” And then listening to the response. Maybe you can’t do anything concrete for them, but you can express care. Time and time again our homeless storytellers told us that when they knew someone cared it shifted them into a better place.
Our plan is to share these stories globally. We have big visions of having our local community as a model for other communities struggling with the question of how to come together and create solutions.
If you would like to support this project, here are two easy ways:
Become a Sponsor or Underwriter of the following creations we are committed to produce:
2018 Daily Compassionate Action Wall Calendar
Multi-media experiential live event at The Center for The Arts in Grass Valley, California on Friday, November 17th, 2017
A-Place-To-Call-Home Group Art Show at the Granucci Gallery, The Center for The Arts from November 15th - 30th, 2017
Betty Louise is Co-Founder of The CoPassion Project, and an Author, Certified Coach, US Radio Personality, and a Certified Broadcaster at KVMR Community Radio in Nevada City, California. Her current project, “A Place to Call Home,” uses the arts to connect with the story and humanity of homeless people.