Guest Post: YOUR Voice Can Change Lives

 

Today (as promised), a guest post by Cynthia Eastman, formerly homeless writer, activist, and founder of Common Ground Worldwide as well as Earth Angel Volunteers, a knitting and crochet group who make caps, hats, scarves, gloves and mittens for homeless/abused men, women and children.

Cynthia is one of the hardest-working, most supportive, non-judgmental people I have ever met; a true peacemaker and a kind heart, and it is a privilege to call her my friend.

 

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YOUR Voice Can Change Lives

By Reverend Cynthia Rae Eastman

 

Brianna and I met a couple of years ago as authors writing for a blog on homelessness. Just like many of you reading “The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness” blog, I too have been reading and watching her journey unfolding and morphing into what is now a book of the same title.

One thing that I have found to be extremely inspirational is the fact that in the midst of experiencing homelessness, Bri was always concerned about all of the others, who were suffering as a result of not being able to afford housing. From the very beginning, she was helping to serve as a voice for those who are homeless.

Clearly, she was thrust into positions of being interviewed on national television, which most of us will never experience. We could all tell that this was a bit scary for her, yet when opportunity knocked, despite the fear and unavoidable stigma associated with being homeless, Bri courageously told her story and made sure that she did what she could to debunk the stereotypes.

Even though we may never personally be under that sort of spotlight, I would like to suggest that we have other smaller, yet powerful ways to have our voices heard. For example, recently, I was invited to speak at our local Homeless Services Oversight Council concerning giving a report on the National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness, which I attended in February. Following my presentation, I decided to remain for the rest of the meeting. During that time, the topic of creating a “Safe Parking” project came up.

As I listened, I could hear various members voicing concerns and the time came when, rather than voting on and passing their endorsement of this project, it looked like the item was going to be tabled in favor of more research. When the chairman of the council asked for “Citizen Comments,” despite not planning to speak or having prepared anything to say, the sound of my tear-filled voice shocked even me.

“I was a divorced, single parent of a 13 year old, when I found myself between jobs,” I said. Then continued with, “My son and I ended up sleeping in our car. It was terrifyingly dangerous. All night long the police kept telling us to move. In this county alone, there are over 3,800 men, women, and children, who are homeless and only 200 shelter beds. People MUST sleep somewhere! I just want to thank all of you for taking the steps necessary to help the people in our community, who are experiencing homelessness.”

Much to my surprise, following these heartfelt impromptu words, a vote was again called and this time, it passed unanimously! It was the first time in my life that I realized my voice could have such a powerful impact and potentially make a positive change in the lives of others, who are struggling. After the meeting, the woman, who was most opposed to moving forward with the vote, came up to me and thanked me for putting a face to homelessness.

Tips for Having Your Voice Heard

Story of a Homeless Veteran, who is speaking out:

 

Most of all, I encourage you to remember this quote by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3])

It is critical for all of us to speak out in our communities concerning our experiences with homelessness. Our voices can be powerful tools for positive change. Let your light shine and your voice be heard, because one person truly can make a difference and that person is YOU!

 

Comments

  1. Vicki Day says:

    Cynthia – hi loved this blog post and yes we all have a voice so we need to use it – because people think their voice will never get heard they don’t speak out but if one person does then others follow ………..
    I always say if Brianna hadn’t done the blog would she have been found – who knows as she is awesome anyway but it just by doing something which makes a difference.

  2. Rev. Cynthia says:

    Hi Vicki! Thanks so much for reading the post. I’m delighted that you liked it & hope that folks will be inspired to speak up in their lives/communities. Bri’s blog is a perfect example of using one’s voice for positive social change and, as internet access is usually available for free through public libraries and the blog hosts that I mentioned are also free, anyone can create a blog.

    I also hope that people, who are reading this post, who have had experience with being un-housed will seriously consider looking into becoming part of the “Faces of Homelessness” Speakers Bureau. The more of us that disclose our experiences, the more the general public will be unable to say, “That could never happen to me.”

    Blessings,
    Cynthia :D

  3. Teri Haynes says:

    We too were homeless for what seemed an eternity. Similar reasons and such. I had three kids and slept in the car no shelters to accept us. Looked for day labor while they were in school during day. Moved our location frequently at night. You can’t give up when you have children that don’t deserve that kind of life. No one does however. We’d clean ourselves in the bathrooms of gas stations and churches would feed us. My faith kept us going. They are grown now and we still have it hard but I have a good job now. I am out on disability so it scares me to think of it happening again. I just wanted to share that it does get better with perseverance.

  4. Rev. Cynthia says:

    Teri, thank you for posting your experience. Because we know that there is a serious stigma associated with either being homeless or having been homeless, it is often socially dangerous to tell our stories, so I greatly appreciate your courage in stepping forward! The fact that you had three children with you is truly unimaginable for me – just having one was difficult. In fact, when we went to the women’s shelter (on Maui in Hawaii circa 1989), we were told that I could stay, but my 13 year old son was too old & would have to go to the men’s shelter by himself – FORGET IT! To this day, he does not want me to mention his name when I talk about our experiences with homelessness, due to the stigma associated with it. Sad…

    I’m so happy that things improved for you & your family Teri. You mentioned disability & a fear of becoming homeless again. Because it has happened to me several times over the course of my life (including while I was on disability), your concern is real. If you are not in subsidized housing, you might want to get on a list for that, just in case things do not improve.

    As you mentioned, things certainly can & often do get better with perseverance, but unless there is affordable housing, simply trying harder doesn’t always work. I would certainly encourage people to become activists concerning the issue of creating more affordable housing.

    I used to be a high school teacher, living in Half Moon Bay, California. Back in 2000, when I was teaching there, the community had subsidized housing for truly low income folks and obviously the wealthy were all set. However, single teachers, nurses, fire fighters, police officers, & other gov’t & service industry employees were often sharing living space with roommates (as though they were still in college) just to make ends meet, due to the high cost of housing. Absurd!

    Wishing you all the best, Teri.
    Rev. Cynthia

  5. Jennie says:

    Thank you for the guest post. I wanted to mention that the tv show “Secret Millionaire” showed skid row in LA last night as the place they sent the secret millionaire. While he ended up donating $100,000 to several programs in the area, there is still so much to be done. I hope the program helped to focus people’s attention on the problem.

    Jennie

  6. Rev. Cynthia says:

    Hi Jennie, I was watching that episode too & found it interesting that the millionaire went into the situation with a lot of preconcieved ideas about “who” becomes homeless, but by the end of the show, he had changed his mind and left the experience being much more compassionate. Here’s a clip of the promo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6IRUtiNhQg and the full episode should be here: http://abc.go.com/watch/secret-millionaire/SH5580166/VD55118745/john-ferber-los-angeles-ca
    The sheer numbers of folks, who are unhoused in Los Angeles, are overwhelming. You are quite right, “there is still so much to be done!” Thus, the reason it is even more important that people have their voices heard…

    Blessings,
    Rev. Cynthia

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