Community Development, Homelessness

“American Winter” Came to Wesleyan: Say Goodbye To Your Old Stereotypes

 

Ann Faust, Program Coordinator of the Middlesex County Coalition on Housing & Homelessness

One of the goals of the Middlesex Coalition on Housing and Homelessness is to dispel old and tired stereotypes of homelessness, and gain wide public support for programs that have been proven to prevent and end homelessness. As any social researcher can attest, measuring a change in public opinion can be difficult.

I can tell our efforts are working when diverse organizations reach out to us and offer assistance. Wesleyan University students and the Middletown Chorale did just that by presenting exciting programs to highlight homelessness in our community.

The Wesleyan University student organization, MidWes, chose homelessness to be the focus of a month-long community awareness campaign. To begin the campaign, last week they hosted a free screening of HBO documentary American Winter along with a presentation by a panel of local housing advocates, including Emmy-award winning co-director and producer Harry Gantz. Harry came all the way from California to be with us and share his passion for social change.

The film presents an intimate snapshot of the state of the nation’s economy as it is playing out in the lives of many American families, and reveals the human consequences of rising economic insecurity, budget cuts to the social safety net, and the fracturing of the American Dream. With each family, housing instability plays a significant role in the struggle to maintain their quality of life. The audience was diverse and include students and people from the general public who hadn’t given much thought to ending homelessness in their everyday lives.  I think they left with a different perception of people who need help with housing.

The Greater Middletown Chorale has also joined the cause and will present Mass for the Homeless, featuring the Connecticut Premiere of Henry Mollicone’s The Beatitude Mass on the Homeless on May 3rd, at 7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at Middletown High School. I read the words to the music yesterday. This will be a powerful performance. It will stir an emotional reaction to the plight of people struggling to get or keep their housing that, again, will touch people who have never given it much thought. There will be a pre-concert lecture by Composer Henry Mollicone, who will talk about his interviews with people who were homeless as the inspiration for this piece. It is open to the public and we encourage you to attend. For tickets and more information, go here

It is through these collaborations that we can create a shift in public opinion that will benefit the people we serve.

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