When we talk about the homeless and people living in poverty, we often refer to them as marginalized.
That is, for all intents and purposes, their interests, rights, and access to services and supports are significantly reduced. They face greater scrutiny in public spaces. They are vilified with persisting myths, half truths, and outright ignorance. They are, intentionally or unintentionally, cast aside from the mainstream of society — they are pushed to the margins.
Every person has a story. Where they’ve come from. How they grew up. Formative experiences that have brought them to where they are today. Most people own their story proudly. Introductions beget questions about ones career, hobbies, and interests. Friends and co-workers listen intently to the anecdotes and recollections of their peers and colleagues. Most places, most times, it’s relatively easy to find someone interested in what one might have to share.
This is a privilege not often extended to the men and women who call streets and shelters their home. Which is ironic, in a way. For the road to homelessness is almost always paved with the kind of drama, suspense, and heartbreak that our culture so craves in its blockbuster movies and best selling novels. And yet, the homeless are far more likely to see someone cross the street away from them — or avert their eyes and avoid contact — than they are to have someone sit down next to them to chat.
Verses vs. Homelessness is a ten-part storytelling project that harnesses the power of song and music to shine a light on these captivating stories of pain and loss, love and triumph. By offering seven homeless men and three front-line care workers at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre an opportunity to tell and truly own their experiences, the resulting songs and video stories become a powerful form of medicine — a vessel to help them process the events and paths that have brought to where they are today. The art becomes a way for them to recognize that regardless of the hardship and trauma they have faced, those hardships do not define them, nor their path forward.
By presenting these songs and stories to the ears and eyes of the world, we hope to inspire a greater interest in the people who live on the margins. We hope to foster more curiosity and a deeper sense of empathy for the homeless men and women in our community. We hope to break down the barriers that divide rich and poor, housed and homeless, have and have not.
Through experiencing the power of this one of a kind project, we hope you will join us in our campaign to bring these impoverished men and women away from the margins and instead surround them in the warm embrace of community and support.