community conversations

Challenge your own beliefs and shift your understanding of homelessness by hearing firsthand from our unhoused (and previously unhoused) neighbors.

Through personal narratives, speaker events, discussions, and feedback, our Community Conversations program showcases the stories and perspectives of people with lived experience.

Seeing the attitude towards me when I was living unhoused was really hard. There’s a sense of invisibility where you don’t want people to see you as homeless and be recognized as homeless. And people in turn do not want to see [you]. But we are all human at the end of the day. Just trying to meet our basic needs and survive.”

Robert, Housing Matters program participant

Interested in sharing your story?

Community Conversations Program

The Story Archive aims to record, preserve, and share the stories of people who have experienced homelessness in Santa Cruz County. Through storytelling and personal narrative, the Story Archive aims to break down biases and humanize issues related to homelessness.

To submit your story to the Story Archive, contact Andrea Feltz, Community Conversations Program Manager at: afeltz@housingmatterssc.org

The Community Conversations Speaker Bureau program provides space for the historically marginalized voices of people with lived experience of homelessness to share their insights with the community through storytelling.

Speakers are trained in public speaking and narrative development.

How does it work?
Speakers Bureau participants take part in a 10 hour certification program hosted at the Downtown Library. Training sessions cover topics such as:

  • Public speaking
  • Narrative development
  • Storytelling & coaching
  • Relationship building

After completing the training, speakers receive $50 compensation and a certificate of completion. They will then be eligible for paid speaking opportunities at a variety of community events.

What if I don’t want to speak publicly?
Apply anyway! Opportunities vary from participating in small group conversations, to writing opinion pieces and stories, to speaking at live events. Speakers work directly with Andrea Feltz, Community Conversations Manager, to identify opportunities that feel the most comfortable.

To join the Speakers Bureau, contact Andrea Feltz at:
afeltz@housingmatterssc.org
(831) 226-2516

To host a member of our Speakers Bureau at your event:
Invite a speaker with lived experience of homelessness to your panel discussions, roundtable conversations, and meetings that focus on topics related to homelessness.
Submit an Application

We invite our program participants to engage in consistent surveys and focus groups to help inform best practices as an organization.

We offer annual surveys of our emergency shelter, day services, and supportive services participants and facilitated focus groups. Through open dialogue, we consistently identify opportunities to improve the services we provide.