Valuing Lives from All Walks of Life

In October of 2022, I covered a breakout session from the annual UGA College of Public Health State of Public's Health Conference.

Valuing Lives from All Walks of Life

During the Valuing and Elevating the Lived Experiences of Atlantans with Equity Stories session at the 2022 State of Public Health Conference, attendees were presented with a unique way to understand the lives of those experiencing homelessness.

Instead of simply clicking through slides of statistics and charts, Sophen Joseph, the program coordinator at Archi, let attendees listen to the stories from those experiencing homelessness. She gave attendees cards that introduced different people and each card had a QR code that led to an audio recording, YouTube video, and written transcription with said person telling their story.

One of the cards led to Justin, a person who, at the time of telling his story, was experiencing homelessness. He had to have his leg amputated a year and a half prior to the recording but said that he maintains positivity by focusing on his “faith, family, and a little bit of intelligence.”

Joseph explained that Justin, and many others experiencing homelessness, were able to tell their stories through Archi and Global Dialogues. “We are taking a free-formed approach to listening, learning, and elevating the suggestions of our community members.” she said.

The organizations were able to accomplish this with the help of Daniel Enger who has spent decades of his career helping to tell the stories of marginalized groups. He interviewed each participant using careful language and questioning that created more of a conversation. These questions and the answers to them, provided the perspectives of those who were experiencing homelessness. These particular interviews allowed for the participants to tell their stories in a way that left them feeling empowered instead of belittled.

Once the interviews were conducted, a few panels were put together and community resource organizations were able to participate in the experience of listening to the stories. These panels allowed for the organizations to better recognize and understand the exact needs of the people they are serving. They were connected to the individuals that told their stories, causing them to serve them as individuals instead of trying to assume the needs of the community at large.

Archi coordinators recognize that those who are experiencing homelessness may have needs that do not directly correlate to homelessness itself. Joseph said one of the participants, Tamara, received the exact resources she needed. “We came in to understand what it was that Ms. Tamara needed at that moment,” she said. “Yes, she needs somewhere to stay but what has that looked like? Has she spent time speaking to people and they are turning her away for minor things or is it because the agencies aren’t communicating well with each other or did Ms. Tamara need resources that had nothing to do with housing?”

While Archi does not take credit and is not responsible for providing Tamara with the resources to be housed, they were able to get to the root of exactly what she needed and helped the organizations in place get her those things.

Justin’s, Tamara’s, and many others full stories can be found on the ARCHives website along with many other resources for those who are experiencing homelessness, those who want to help, and those who want to connect with the Archi collaborative.