CSH’s Speak Up! Program Celebrates a New Cohort of Advocates
Los Angeles, CA | September 15, 2021 – The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) Speak Up! program hosted a virtual ceremony to mark the culmination of more than a year of advocacy training for people who formerly experienced homelessness. The advocates shared poignant stories of overcoming enormously difficult odds to finding stable housing and how the yearlong training transformed their lives.
“Being a Speak Up! Advocate gives me so much pride. My experiences can open the door for others, said Michelle Fennell. “Homelessness is a serious problem, especially when you have children. It made me so depressed not being able to support myself and my kids or take care of my responsibilities. I felt so small and disappointed in myself. In 2017, after three long years, I was able to get housing. When I opened the door to my apartment, I fell to my knees, and I kissed the floor.”
“I found some talents that I either forgot about or didn’t know I had. I found a voice; it’s mine,” said Speak Up! Advocate, Jon Christian. “And in writing my story, I found a healing – a healing and comfort that I have never known. And this is why I am not only housed, but I am drug-free.”
“As you listen to my story and the stories of the other advocates, ask yourself, was it the choices that determined our circumstances, or did circumstances decide our choices? This may change your mind on what truly causes homelessness and what we all can do to achieve an ending,” said Speak Up! Advocate Lisa Bethel.
“By reclaiming their stories of heartbreak and resilience and ultimately challenging the dominant narrative about homelessness, they become educators, advocates, and leaders in the fight to end homelessness,” said Ann English, Director at CSH who oversees the Speak Up! program in Los Angeles.
The CSH Speak Up! program is in its eighth year, and this event celebrated ten advocates. The program is supported in partnership with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Downtown Women’s Center, the John and Marilyn Wells Family Foundation, and SVP Los Angeles.
Since its inception, Speak Up! has supported more than a hundred advocates who share their stories across the country. The program pairs advocates with volunteers from the performing arts -actors, writers, comics, and other professions, as personal story coaches for the duration of the program. The advocates have helped to drive change to public policy and public systems that, although intending to assist people experiencing homelessness, often exacerbate and place burdensome hurdles to long-term housing stability. Many program advocates have gone on to speak at local, state, and national events, telling their personal stories of perseverance and advocating for proven solutions like supportive housing.
The Speak Up’s year-long curriculum empowers supportive housing residents to become community leaders and champions for supportive housing. Through monthly workshops, one-on-one story coaching, public speaking at community events, and advocacy with elected officials Speak Up! graduates develop skills to reclaim their lived-experience stories as messages of hope to create change.
Speak Up! Advocate Antonio “Tony” Moreno summed up the impact of stable housing and advocacy training when he said, “I am a man, I am a father, I am a husband and a hard worker and there are many people out there like me. Let’s not judge, everyone deserves the right to be housed, It’s a human right.”
The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) is the national champion for supportive housing, demonstrating its potential to improve the lives of very vulnerable individuals and families by helping communities create more than 385,000 real homes for people who desperately need them. CSH funding, expertise and advocacy have provided $1 billion in direct loans and grants for supportive housing across the country. Building on 30 years of success developing multiple and cross-sector partnerships, CSH engages broader systems to fully invest in solutions that drive equity, help people thrive, and harness data to generate concrete and sustainable results. By aligning affordable housing with services and other sectors, CSH helps communities move away from crisis, optimize their public resources, and ensure a better future for everyone. Visit us at www.csh.org.