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A consistent problem Project Homeless comes across in our coverage is writing about numbers. We write about numbers constantly: How much money is spent on homeless services. How many people are making it out. How many people are dying while homeless.

The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless is funded by BECU, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Seattle Mariners, Starbucks and the University of Washington. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over Project Homeless content.

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We often struggle to portray the people behind the numbers. Homelessness is deeply personal, and it’s something everyone experiences differently.

That’s why we’re hosting a night that’s all about personal stories: It’s called Ignite Project Homeless, and we’re putting it on in partnership with Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness. The event will be at Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium on June 7 from 7 – 8:30 p.m.

For this to happen, we need your stories.

Why “Ignite Project Homeless”?

Since 2006, Ignite Seattle has held more than 30 events that bring together Seattleites for speedy talks on a variety of topics. Ignite presenters use 20 slides with each slide timed to appear for 15 seconds.

If you want to see what this looks like, The Seattle Times’ Education Lab borrowed this format (with permission) in 2016 for a similar event where teachers, parents and students shared their stories about schools and schooling. That was so popular, Education Lab has been doing it every year since. We’re building on that success and branching out.

Can anybody pitch? Which pitches will you pick?

We accept pitches from people of all ages, employment and educational backgrounds.

We’re looking for people who can offer new insight into the experience of homelessness and solutions to it. That could mean you’ve experienced it, worked closely with people who are homeless, or volunteered at a shelter or outreach program. Maybe you were homeless and now you’re advocating for a change based on your experience. Maybe experiencing homelessness helped you find your calling working with homeless people. Maybe you’re still without a home, but you’ve found something that keeps you hopeful during the hard times.

We’re looking for solutions, big or small: Your talk could be personal, about a change you made inside yourself, or it could be about a system or policy that you think needs to change based on your experiences.

If you’re still struggling with how to frame your story, check out some similar projects from our partners, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness: they teamed up with the Peabody Award-winning program The Moth to host a storytelling workshop and, in March 2015, a live storytelling event similar to what we’re planning. Eight of the stories from the event aired on The Moth Radio Hour, which broadcasts to more than 500 stations across the country.

Here’s one of those stories, from Timothy Bell:

If you need more inspiration, the Project on Family Homelessness also partnered with the radio program StoryCorps to produce nearly 100 stories of people who have experienced homelessness, housing advocates, and service providers in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

How do I pitch?

Call 206-464-2202 and leave us a voicemail. Your ideas do not have to be completely fleshed out; just tell us your story or an idea your talk could be about. The more specific the better. No business pitches, or stories promoting a brand/company. Make sure to spell out your first and last name, and include an email address. If you want to be extra sure we received the message, send a follow-up email to me at Put “Ignite Project Homeless” in the subject.

If my pitch is accepted, will I get help along the way?

Yes. We will have story coaches working with you on the content of your talk, how you present, the photos you pick, and tips for speaking in front of an audience. We’re looking for mostly people who aren’t used to public speaking. We want to hear new voices.

How much time do I need to commit?

In addition to  the event on June 7, there will be two or three training sessions on Fridays or Saturdays in May and early June. If you need help with child care or transportation, please let us know.

What’s the deadline for pitching?

11:59 p.m. on May 6th.

I don’t want to give a talk, but I know someone with a good story to tell. What should I do?

Send them to us! We can encourage them to apply. Email me at, or give me a call: (206) 464-8545.

I just want to come to the event. Does it cost money?

No: To keep it open to everyone, we aren’t charging. However, there’s limited space, and tickets to our events tend to sell really quickly even when they do cost money, so get them now.