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The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness is thrilled to announce our new Homeless Speakers Bureau! Learn more and request a speaker for your community events at www.mihomelessvoice.org.SB logo_blue text

In 2016, 66,483 Michiganders experienced homelessness, including children, veterans, families, and seniors. The public doesn’t often interact with this invisible population, and for many their perceptions of homelessness are based on media images or individuals on street corners. There aren’t opportunities to hear personal stories about how the experience of homelessness affects someone’s life, the struggles of finding housing and support, and how many are simply a few paychecks away from homelessness.

The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness hopes to bring these stories into our communities through the new Michigan Homeless Speakers Bureau to increase empathy, educate decision makers, and create solutions for preventing and ending homelessness in Michigan.

What is a speakers bureau?

A speakers bureau is an organization of people who speak on a certain topic: in our case, the experience of being homeless. The Michigan Homeless Speakers Bureau is a platform for those who have experienced homelessness in Michigan to share their stories. The ultimate goal is to remove the stigmas associated with homelessness and raise awareness about this very real problem that affects many people both throughout the state of Michigan and around the country.

We train our speakers to tell their personal story and experience of homelessness, prepare them with data and statistics from around the state, and make them available for speaking engagements in your community. They don’t represent everyone’s experience, but are the experts in their own story, and every story is different.

Who is involved?

 

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The 2018-2019 Speakers Bureau. (Not pictured: Robin). Photo by Gigi Morton, The Vets Of…

The 2018 inaugural class is composed of 8 individuals who are trained, prepared and available to speak at organized events about their personal experiences. They represent communities across lower Michigan and speak from diverse experiences of homelessness, including sleeping in cars, shelters, and the streets due to evictions, domestic abuse, lack of familial support, incarceration, and issues related to mental health.

Visit our website to learn more about each of our Speakers and their journeys.

Why is the MCAH Speakers Bureau important?

The public’s perception of homelessness is often based on what we have been conditioned to expect: someone who has chosen or deserves homelessness due to personal decisions regarding substance abuse, unwillingness to work, or other distasteful habits. This is an inaccurate and dangerous way to view a condition that is often outside of an individual’s control. In recent years Michigan has seen an increase in families becoming homeless because they can’t afford the rising costs of rent, in seniors who don’t have a safety net once they reach retirement age, and in youth and women – often fleeing from domestic abuse. Often, a family is just one emergency away from being unable to afford their home.

The new Homeless Speakers Bureau will change the conversation around homelessness to regularly include the voices of those who have personally experienced it. With these speaking opportunities, we aim to challenge stereotypes about homelessness and provide an opportunity for those who have been silenced to have their voices heard. As these stories come to light, we can better understand the causes of homelessness and the role each of us has in better serving our community members and neighbors.

Our Goals

  • Raise awareness about issues related to homelessness
  • Break stereotypes and stigma associated with homelessness
  • Put a face to homelessness through personal stories
  • Effect proactive change in Michigan

What can I do to help?

The most important thing we can do is listen to stories that aren’t our own and keep an open mind and heart to change. We encourage you to schedule a speaker for your community event – whether at a club meeting, presentations to students, educators, or staff, or conversations with decision makers.

You can also support the Speakers Bureau through a sponsorship or donation. We are fortunate to receive support through our Gold Sponsor Cinnaire, but we need additional financial support to make this a strong initiative that can make an impact on our communities. Sponsorship packages are available, including community sponsorships of $100 or in-kind donations. To make a donation or learn more about sponsorships, please contact Laurel Burchfield at lburchfield@mihomeless.org.

Only by better understanding homelessness – real homelessness and the individuals and families who have experienced it – can we hope to end it.

For more information, please visit the Michigan Homeless Speakers Bureau website at http://www.mihomelessvoice.org.

By Laurel Burchfield, Manager of Marketing, Growth, and DevelopmentYou can contact her at: lburchfield@mihomeless.org.

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