A panel of shelter directors and currently or recently homeless citizens came to a group of about 60 members of the Deerfield community.
“Students should know what it’s like to live as a homeless person, how you’re viewed by others, the stigmas attached,” said history teacher and Community Service director Bernie Baker. “I hoped that the event would raise all these issues to a level of consciousness.”
The presentation, which took place on April 27th, consisted of two shelter directors and Americorp Vista workers, Porscha Olayiwola and Charlotte Sida, as well as three homeless and recently homeless presenters. Sida and Olayiwola opened the presentation by explaining the top five causes of homelessness. Then the presenters shared their experiences.
Students’ perspectives shifted thanks to the presentation. “One of the biggest surprises for me was the repeated assertion that anyone can become homeless–and the story of someone who, like most of us at Deerfield, went through college and had a career and who still became homeless. That was a real eye-opener,” commented Jacqui Colt ’11.
Henry Lewis ’12 was also moved to deeper thought. “It is important that people understand that there is not always something inherently wrong with homeless people,” he said.
The event emerged from the Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau, a program run by the National Coalition for the Homeless, which works to raise awareness about the lives of the homeless through personal stories and discussions that occur at panels such as the one brought to Deerfield.
The Bureau contacted Dr. Baker about Deerfield’s willingness to host a Faces of Homelessness presentation. Dr. Baker told the Bureau they were welcome to come, hoping the event would attract student attention and interest.
Dr. Baker expected that in response, students would be motivated to take action on this issue and engage in service opportunities “that deal with homelessness in Franklin County.”
“I will be pursuing further opportunities for students to engage in these issues,” he continued. “Their combined efforts can contribute to greater engagement of Deerfield students with those who find themselves without a home.”