The Tallahassee Homeless Speakers’ Bureau is looking to establish sustainability in the program with volunteers and interns.
THSB is a joint project of The Shelter and the National Coalition for the Homeless. The project has been supported by AmeriCorps VISTA.
A program of The Shelter, THSB hosts presentations about misconceptions and issues surrounding the homeless in and around the community. Its goal is to educate people about the homeless about how, and what, people can do to help.
Volunteers and interns must be able to dedicate at least one full day to the bureau and be able to speak in front of large groups of people. Most presentations will be with middle school students so professionalism is essential.
“Leon County Middle Schools added a service learning class to their curriculum so that students can learn about homelessness and what they can do to help,” said Jacob Reiter, the program coordinator for The Shelter.
Volunteers and interns create and moderate presentations, finding speakers for their panel and sorting donations for The Shelter.
Presentations cover stereotypes, leading causes of homelessness, criminalization of the homeless, violence against the homeless and what the public can do to help. There will also be a panel of homeless or formerly homeless individuals to share their stories about being homeless.
“The program started in 2007, after violence towards the homeless increased,” said Mary Weil, an AmeriCorp VISTA coordinator for The THSB.
The program is trying to bring awareness to the community about the issue. Its mission is to provide an opportunity for people who have experienced homelessness to discuss and speak for themselves and others, and to build bridges within communities.
“After giving presentations, I see the audience’s perceptions of homelessness and homeless people have totally changed,” said Weil. “An example of how their perceptions have changed is where they once saw an easy ride for lazy people, they now no longer see the general homeless population in this light.”
THSB provides homeless and formerly homeless people opportunities to speak and to dispel the negative stereotypes and misconceptions people may have. They use their own experiences to educate the community and help bring a better understanding of what it is to be homeless.
“What can I say; The Speakers’ Bureau is a good thing,” said Glenn Walker, a veteran and member of The THSB. “The bureau allows everyone’s story to be told, if they are willing.”
If you are interested in volunteering for THSB, call 850-222-0499, or email TheShelterTHSB@embarqmail.com.