A Place to Call Home, a new story collection published jointly by Housing Action Illinois and the Supportive Housing Providers Association (SHPA), shares the experiences of Illinoisans who have been homeless in their own words. Their lives and perspectives help shed light on a complex range of overlapping issues, from living with a mental illness or disability to surviving domestic violence and sexual assault.
“Most people don’t understand how trauma can shut you down,” writes Darius, who lives in Southern Illinois, who wants to become a motivational speaker to help others who are facing difficult circumstances.
Charles, from Rockford, remembers that “There were times when I wanted to give up. Nights under a bridge, nights spent in a public elevator to stay out of the rain.” But he has come a long way since then, and his story “is one of hope and recovery.”
The 18 stories in this publication grew out of Storytelling for Change, a year-long initiative during which Housing Action Illinois and SHPA partnered to bring half-day storytelling workshops for residents of supportive housing around the state. Individuals from Mt. Vernon, Peoria, Rockford, Hillside, and Chicago joined us to explore telling stories to make a difference.
Among other issues, the storytellers’ experiences pointed toward the critical intersection between housing and health. “After three weeks in the hospital, my doctor asked me if I was homeless. That question would be the first step to my new life,” remembers Laura. Her fellow workshop participant, Patrick, writes about being “in seven different hospitals over this two-year period” before getting connected with mental health services and finding his path to supportive housing.
Although the storytellers have faced intense challenges in their lives, many of them share the hope they feel now that they have been connected with services and are able to advocate for themselves and others.
“I’m dreaming again,” writes Stanley, who joined our workshop in Hillside, after reflecting on his tragic family losses and his descent into depression and suicidal ideation. “That feels so good, to be able to dream.”
“I will be going back to school this coming fall,” resolves Taj, a young woman from Chicago. “I’m going to make it happen.”
Meet Darius, Charles, Laura, Patrick, Stanley, Taj, and their fellow storytellers by reading A Place to Call Home, below.
Our thanks to the Illinois Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund for making this collaboration possible.