Importance of Community Conversations

The Community Conversations program at Housing Matters provides space for the historically marginalized voices of people with lived experience of homelessness to share their insights with the community through storytelling. Community Conversations provides an authentic and unadulterated presentation of the lived experience of homelessness. It is our intention to present each story unfiltered to bear witness to the many spoken and unspoken issues that face our unhoused neighbors. It is our aim to present these important threads, which are the result  of systemic failures and to provide context to equip ourselves, and the community, with tools for resolving homelessness.  

There is growing recognition of the value of persons with lived experience as agents of change through their unique expertise, in-depth knowledge of service navigation, first-hand point of view of inequities within systems, and their capacity to provide high-level and practical solutions. This recognition places persons with lived experience as experts to advocate for system change.

The Community Conversations program has three areas of focus to bring voices of lived experience into organizational decision-making and community discussion:

  1. The Speakers Bureau provides training in public speaking and opportunities to speak at many public and private events.
  1. The Story Archive was developed to capture the diverse experience of those with lived experience of homelessness to dispel myths and increase understanding of our unhoused neighbors. Myths and misconceptions surrounding homelessness often stem from a lack of exposure and empathy compounded by detachment and the belief that homelessness is a choice; and that individuals experiencing homelessness are solely responsible for their situation. The ‘Story Archive’ allows for a full-form personal narrative collection of lived experiences of homelessness. Every narrative is distinct, collectively portraying the multifaceted nature of the experience of homelessness. At its core, the stories we read tell us that homelessness is an individual journey that anyone can experience.
  1. Feedback Programs invite our program participants to engage in consistent surveys and focus groups to help inform best practices and program development as an organization. 

“We have consistently received feedback from our participants that they want a roof over their heads, a private space that is their own, and the stability of knowing that they have a safe place to sleep at night. The Community Conversations program provides a framework for the organization to collect more in-depth feedback not only on basic services but also on the experience of receiving those services. We are then better able to scale and adjust service delivery based on what our program participants need.” -Tom Stagg, Chief Initiatives Officer. 

Equity is at the heart of this process, it invites everyone to have input into the organizational decision-making process at Housing Matters and beyond. Homelessness is solvable when the entire community comes together and recognizes that we all have a responsibility to participate in solutions. We must break down the barriers that separate our experiences from each other, and mobilize together in support of our unhoused neighbors. Through wholehearted and compassionate listening we will all be better equipped to solve homelessness, one person at a time.