By Catherine Hinrichsen, Program Manager for Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness
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. Caption: One of the most memorable StoryCorps segments for the family homelessness community is the story of Tierra Jackson, who with her former principal John Horan reflected on what it was like to be homeless in high school.
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. Find out how service providers can help us find the stories and use them to advocate.
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.
Caption: Kollin Min, a StoryCorps fan, said the moving stories are known to cause reactions ranging from sniffling to bawling. Some, however, are also good for a laugh.
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.