Monthly Archives: August 2014

Education = Safer Spaces

Photo taken as part of LIHCA’s Home is… campaign.  Currently LIHCA is working to secure dedicated revenue for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund.  To learn more, click here.

Education = Safer Spaces

by Joshua Helms

Since September of 2013, I’ve served as an AmeriCorps member at One Roof through the YWCA of Central Alabama’sBuilding Communities, Bettering Lives program. I joined AmeriCorps because I want to make the world a better place for all people. Serving at One Roof has allowed me to do this and to make real and positive change. I’ve spent a lot of my time this year trying to make spaces safer for everyone in our community, especially those experiencing, or at-risk for experiencing, homelessness. I believe that safer spaces ensure that each person is treated with dignity and respect, and this is exceedingly important for community members in vulnerable situations. Many folks experiencing homelessness in our community lack safety, stability, and an adequate support system: in short, they lack a safe space to call home. These community members deserve to be treated with dignity and respect; they deserve a safe place to call home.

Since September I’ve attended monthly meetings of the Magic City Acceptance Project (MCAP), a coalition of community volunteers, social workers, service providers, and students working to better meet the needs of LGBTQ+ youth in the Birmingham area. I’ve also attended monthly meetings of the Birmingham Home Host Program, a committee of MCAP working to secure safe housing options for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. As a representative of One Roof, I’ve networked with advocates, strengthened efforts to provide safe and inclusive spaces for youth experiencing homelessness, and provided insight, research, and statistics used to educate others on the issue.

Before AmeriCorps, I completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Alabama, where I taught composition, creative writing, and literature courses to undergraduate students. Serving at One Roof has allowed me to use my background as an educator to further One Roof’s mission. This year I educated community members about youth homelessness, especially issues related to LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness, and empowered young people to make real differences in their communities. A few highlights:

These presentations focused on ways for advocates to help prevent and end youth homelessness. I encouraged participants to join local efforts and coalitions, reach out to schools, churches, governments, and use the information and statistics provided by One Roof to make lasting changes in their communities. You can check out the presentations here and here.

One Roof’s mission is to equip and empower our community to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and the coordination of services. We strongly believe that each of these components is vital, that preventing and ending homelessness must be a coordinated community effort. We take every opportunity to educate the community on issues related to homelessness because we believe that education equips and empowers folks to make positive changes in their community. We believe that education about homelessness allows our community to overcome stereotypes and barriers, recognize the institutions that enforce oppression, and make spaces safer for everyone.  Education can lead to a community where every person has a safe place to call home — whether through safer relationships, a community that is mindful about fair housing policies, or a community that simply stands behind and supports the agencies that can offer those safe spaces, those homes.

This year has changed my life for the better. The opportunity to educate community members, to see increased efforts to prevent and end homelessness, to use my skill set in a way that truly helps others and makes our community a better, safer place, has been invaluable to me.  I’ve felt seen and heard and, in return, have bettered efforts to make sure that community members experiencing homelessness feel seen, heard, and safe.

To learn more about serving as an AmeriCorps with One Roof, visit our website.  The YWCA of Central Alabama partners with different agencies across Birmingham (including One Roof) to offer more than 30 different service opportunities to individuals looking to make Birmingham a better place.  Click here for information on how to apply; the program starts the first week of September.  

Josh Helms is an AmeriCorps member serving at One Roof as the Capacity Building Assistant.

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