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Homeless dialogue based on The Soloist November 17, 2010

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2010's National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week is November 14-20. As part of the scheduled events, participants attended a discussion at Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe about the book The Soloist by Steve Lopez.

More than 10 agency representatives, community members and people experiencing homelessness came out for the community book discussion based on The Soloist by Steve Lopez at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café on November 16, 2010.

The book discussion was held as part of the scheduled events for National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week (November 14-20). The week is designed to raise awareness of homelessness in order to dispel myths that homelessness is someone else’s problem and to help people learn about how to join in the community’s work to end homelessness.

The Soloist is a book about a journalist who meets a talented musician who is experiencing homelessness, the relationship they form and the challenges they face as the musician struggles to find and maintain housing. By reading a common book, everyone had a similar framework with which to begin a conversation about homelessness and hunger. We couldn’t have been more pleased at how this worked out! The conversation began around some of the themes of The Soloist and quickly turned into a remarkable exchange of ideas, stories and experiences.

Ending homelessness is a collaborative effort and events like the book discussion promote community-wide dialogue, create approaches and vital insights from a diverse group of people.

During the book discussion, many participants expressed the need for more one-on-one interactions between people from all walks of life as a way to minimize isolation and mistrust and create more comprehensive, effective responses. This need has also been a topic at the Homeless Initiative as we try to find creative ways to bring people together to develop networks of support and action that alleviate the impact homelessness has on everyone in the community.

Recently we’ve explored using social media as a tool to bridge communication gaps. Participants in the discussion suggested that social media could be used to share the stories and experiences of people experiencing homelessness to a much wider audience and, by doing so, help to combat the many myths that surround homelessness and set the stage for a more comprehensive and productive dialogue about how we can end homelessness.

National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week isn’t over yet! UNCA is holding a food drive all this week to benefit the Family Resource Center at Emma and tomorrow at 7pm in the UNCA Humanities Lecture Hall is a FREE screening of The Soloist. Hope to see you all there!

The Homeless Initiative cannot do what we do without your participation and input. If you have an idea for an event, how to get people involved or if you want to learn more generally, please contact us. We love hearing from you! You can also learn more about the going’s on at the Homeless Initiative by checking out our Facebook page.

Book Selections for National Homeless Awareness Week! October 19, 2010

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National Homeless Awareness Week is November 14-20 and we have some special things planned! As part of our activities we’ll select a book about homelessness to read with the entire community.

And – we need your help!

Review the list below to help us select the perfect book for Asheville and Buncombe county schools, libraries, book clubs, and faith groups to read during National Homeless Awareness Week.

You can cast your vote by posting a comment on this blog post, or commenting at our Facebook page . Voting is open until October 29 and we’ll announce the winning book on November 1. So stay tuned!

We’ll be posting information about Homeless Awareness week and our community book reading event on here, the Homeless Initiative website, and our new Facebook page.

Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homelessness to Harvard by Liz Murray

“In the harrowing tale of her childhood in the Bronx, [Liz] Murray’s straightforward and no-frills prose hits hard. …Regarding her parents’ [drug] addiction with the utmost benevolence, Murray tells of bearing the weighty burden of young protector to her obviously flailing parents, and eventually living on the streets when it was less unhappy—and perhaps safer—than staying at home. With no resources to speak of, she ultimately commits to high school and finds her prospects can be great. Neither sensationalizing nor soliciting pity, Murray’s generous account of and caring attitude toward her past are not only uplifting, but also a fascinating lesson in the value of dedication.” –From the Booklist review

Liz Murray’s story was made into a 2003 film starring Thora Birch called Homeless to Harvard.

Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America by Jonathan Kozol

“A horrifying, staggering book about the homeless in this country.  …The true heart of this book …rests on two points: the lack of affordable housing for the poor and, most tragically, the children who will become adults with little education, poor health, no marketable skills, and mental and emotional scars from spending a childhood under these conditions. Kozol’s writing is clear and reads easily due to his stark, unembellished style. It is always the people who shine through; they are a testament to the human spirit. It is impossible to read this book and remain untouched.” –From the School Library Journal Review

The Soloist by Steve Lopez

“…[Nathaniel] Ayers had been at Juilliard studying classical bass when he experienced the first in a series of schizophrenic episodes that turned his musical dreams into a nightmare. Now, worlds away from the concert halls he imagined gracing, Ayers spends his days on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, fighting off rats and drug-frenzied fellow homeless—and serenading passersby. …[Steve] Lopez [an LA Times columnist and novelist] quickly becomes an integral part of Ayers’ life…” –From the Booklist review

The Soloist was made into a 2009 film starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.

Are you interested in joining us or helping us during National Homeless Awareness Week?

Are you part of a book club who might want to read this book?

Would you like someone to give a presentation to your group about homelessness?

Contact the Homeless Initiative to learn more.

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