UPDATE: The first story from this project aired Friday morning, Aug. 22, on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” Listen to the story via StoryCorps’s Web site. More details are here.
Every Friday morning at around 7:30 a.m., millions of people around the country are entranced by a weekly public radio segment in which everyday Americans tell the stories of their lives. It’s the beloved StoryCorps, and it’s coming to our region this summer to find stories about families who have experienced homelessness.
While only about 50 of its stories per year make it onto National Public Radio, StoryCorps has actually recorded more than 50,000 stories in its 10 years. The stories are archived in the Library of Congress.
This July and August, people in Western Washington who have experienced family homelessness will be able to tell their own stories as part of the new StoryCorps project, “Finding Our Way: Puget Sound Stories about Family Homelessness.” The project is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who asked our Project on Family Homelessness to serve as the local coordinator.
We’ll be working with local host partners to find stories from among their current and recent clients, and also reaching out to the public to find people who have experienced family homelessness in their past. The stories will also be available for our advocacy efforts to end family homelessness in Washington state.
- How can stories help end family homelessness? Firesteel explains.
- Read the news release about the project.
Program Kickoff June 3
Nearly 150 community members gathered at the Gates Foundation Visitor Center for the project launch Tuesday night, June 3, to find out how to become part of this new advocacy initiative.
The purpose of “Finding Our Way” is to develop a collection of up to 90 personal stories about families in our community who have experienced homelessness. StoryCorps will work with local host partners YWCA Seattle ǀ King ǀ Snohomish and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, along with Seattle University, to recruit participants for 40-minute recordings this summer.
In his welcome, senior program officer Kollin Min of the Gates Foundation mentioned a relevant quote from Bill Gates, Sr. on one of the walls of the Visitor Center: Though data drives results reporting, “These numbers are our neighbors.” “These data points reflect the experiences of people like us through storytelling,” Kollin said.
Guests were able to meet the main project crew from StoryCorps — Michelle Bova, Abby Lesnick and producer Eve Claxton. On her first visit to the region in late April, Eve began recording at United Way of King County‘s Community Resource Exchange April 30 and will lead the recording process this summer.
During the overview, Abby said the purpose of StoryCorps is to give voice to the voiceless and that its audio-only format is something that founder David Isay strongly believes in.
The rapt audience listened as she played one of the most memorable stories, “As if high school is not hard enough,” in which a young woman, Tierra Jackson, talks with her former high school principal, John Horan, about being homeless as a high school student.
Local host partners are YWCA and CCS
Local host partners will play an important role in the project. Denny Hunthausen of Catholic Community Services of Western Washington and Erin Murphy of YWCA Seattle ǀ King ǀ Snohomish described why their organizations are excited to be part of the project. “I’m struck by the irony that data drives what we do, yet you won’t hear one piece of what we think of as data in stories of homeless families,” Denny said. “The humanizing nature of these stories is what excites us about this project.”
Erin said that the YWCA serves 50,000 women a year in King and Snohomish counties and each of them has a story. “Stories are at the root of the structural change we need to end homelessness,” she said.
StoryCorps will record stories this summer as follows:
- Pierce County: July 15-19 at CCS Tahoma Family Center, Tacoma. Local host partner contact: Tanya Mendenhall Mettlen, email@example.com Read the Pierce County news release.
- Snohomish County: July 29-August 2 at YWCA Family Village Lynnwood. Local host partner contact: Denise Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org Read the Snohomish County news release.
- King County: August 11-14 at YWCA Opportunity Place in downtown Seattle and Aug. 15 at YWCA Greenbridge Center in White Center (South King County). Local host partner contact: Denise Miller, email@example.com Read the King County news release.
Please read the one-pager and FAQ for more information. Then, if you’d like to participate, or want to arrange a recording for one of your clients, contact your local host partner, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional questions, please contact us at email@example.com.
Photo Credits: Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Steve Schimmelman of Sun Photography, firstname.lastname@example.org.