Faces of Homelessness speakers share their stories

Published: April 28, 2016

Submitted photo: CAMPUS MINISTRIES’ center of service and social justice / LEFT: SENIOR Eric Cross facilitated the discussion surrounding people who experienced homelessness. He organized the “Faces of Homelessness” event Thursday in TDC 405. RIGHT: A man shares his story of being homeless in order to combat existing stigmas about people who experience homelessness.

SUBMITTED PHOTO /  CAMPUS MINISTRIES’ CENTER OF SERVICE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE / LEFT: SENIOR Eric Cross facilitated the discussion surrounding people who experienced homelessness. He organized the “Faces of Homelessness” event Thursday in TDC 405. RIGHT: A man shares his story of being homeless in order to combat existing stigmas about people who experience homelessness.

MICHAEL MAZZUCA
Staff Writer

Individuals from Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau spoke in room 405 of the DeNaples Center on Thursday afternoon.

Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau sends speakers who were formerly homeless to high schools, colleges, universities and business events across the country to speak about their experiences.

Senior Eric Cross introduced speakers Albert Townshead, Steve Thomas and Candi Darley.

“They talk about advocacy for the homeless as well, and things along with stereotypes and stigmas… (such as) they are jobless, bums, alcoholics, crazy.” Cross said on second floor DeNaples.

One speaker talked about how being abused as a child contributed to his fall to homelessness.

Another explained how an undiagnosed medical condition and depression were significant causes for homelessness.

One could see faces change over the course of each individuals’ life stories.

“I think Steve’s story impacted us the most,” Cross said. “His story was a sad one to hear. Abuse, drugs, alcohol, you know, how he experienced so many terrible things in his life and that instead of getting the help he needed, he ended up homeless instead.”

Steve, Albert or Candi would not have engaged the University community, however, without the initiative demonstrated by Cross.

After learning about the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau on a spring break service in DC, Cross asked Campus Ministries’ Center for Service & Social Justice Director Pat Vaccaro about bringing such speakers to campus. He presented a fully laid-out plan.

“I told her that this is my experience on my trip, this is what I’ll make happen. She said ‘let’s do it’ without hesitation,” Cross said.

Cross then went online, researching the organization’s webpages for contact information. He began communicating with Faces of Homelessness via email. The process was very simple.

Cross is passionate and intelligent regarding social justice issues.

“2006 was the first year in none of the 50 United States can you afford one-bedroom, fair-market rate apartment for a minimum wage full-time job,” Cross said.

One speaker delivered a wise statement that puts the matter of becoming homeless in perspective as recalled by Cross.

“He said the only person who is immune to homelessness is the perfect person.”

Senior counseling and human services major Julie Dragonetti felt invigorated by the student engagement at the discussion.

The speakers were personable, friendly, kind and humorous, Dragonetti said. She claims it felt like more like a dialogue than a presentation.

“People really wanted to bring the experience with them when they left,” Dragonetti said.

Due to her passion for combating homelessness, she was familiar with many of the common narratives that people experiencing homelessness must endure. However, she was excited to see other people becoming involved.

“I think it was cool to see so many people involved,” Dragonetti said. “It was great because Eric was inspired to do it based on his service trip and he just made it happen.”

In addition, the talk illuminated the services that the National Coalition for the Homeless provides, including massive homeless sleep-outs in Washington D.C.

“As someone who is passionate about homelessness, it was great to see other people caring,” Dragonetti said. “I would love to see the Scranton community continuing that engagement.”

Contact the writer: michael.mazzuca@scranton.edu

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